Red Flag 13-3: focusing on Electronic Warfare, SEAD and Intelligence. With plenty of Aggressors.

Red Flag 13-3 currently underway at Nellis Air Force Base focuses on complex combat ops, in an “electronic scenario”.

At least, this is what seems to emerge based on the analysis of the units taking part of the world’s largest and more realistic exercise.

RF 13-3 is the first to include real-time intelligence by ISR platforms thanks to the involvement of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, via its 526th Intelligence Squadron.

Indeed, the 526th IS has developed a scenario with realistic environment for ISR platform to collect against, that includes enemy communication tactics and procedures.

Among the most interesting platforms taking part to the exercise is an MC-12W that, just like RF 12-3 last year, supports ground forces tracking high-value and time-sensitive targets, including people, as well as provide tactical intelligence and airborne command and control for air-to-ground operations.


Considered the amount of Aggressors launched during the sorties I’ve witnessed, I strongly believed that, compared to 12-3, the air threats were sensibly higher: last year the MC-12W at their first RF were used in a “permissive” scenario, with limited risk to be intercepted by enemy planes.


Such scenario was probably made a bit more difficult with enemy fighter planes (and need to rely on huge escort, that included F-22 Raptor stealth fighters).


EC-130H, EP-3, RC-135 are among the other interesting assets, both providing Electronic Warfare capabilities to the RF participants; SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) planes include U.S. Navy E/A-18G Growlers, U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers and U.S. Air Force F-16CJ aircraft.


The Royal Australian Air Force deployed to Nellis two E-7 AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft, while UK’s Royal Air Force is taking part to the RF 13-3 with both the Tornado GR4 and the Typhoon FGR4.



Other participating weapon systems include the F-15E (from the 48th FW based at RAF Lakenheath) and the 53rd Wing’s F-15C, the 509th BW B-2 Spirit, and support assets (E-3s and KC-135s among the others).

Not bad for a Red Flag (before sequestration…..)


The lack of any A-10 (actually, there are on base but involved in Green Flag) and B-1s is (probably) a sign that the CAS (Close Air Support) was not among the “topics” of the exercise.


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.