Legacy aircraft and fifth generation stealth jets trained together during Checkered Flag 16-1 exercise

F-35s, F-22s and F-16s increasingly working together.

Taken on Dec. 17, 2015, the photos in this post show several kinds of aircraft parked on the Tyndall Air Force Base flightline.

Captured during Checkered Flag 16-1 exercise, the images feature in fact an F-22 Raptor and a T-38 Talon from Tyndall AFB, Fla, F-16 Fighting Falcons from Shaw AFB, S.C. and Eielson AFB, Alaska and an F-35 Lightning II from Eglin AFB, Fla parked side-by-side.

Checkered Flag (whose origins date back to the early ’80s) is a large-force exercise (LFE) that simulates the employment of a large number of aircraft, both legacy and fifth-generation combat planes that can take the opportunity to practice combat training together from a deployed environment.

Those involved in CF 16-1 were from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana; Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and Tyndall AFB: F-22 Raptors, F-35 Lightning IIs, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, QF-16 aerial targets, T-38 Talons, B-52 Stratofortress’s and an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS).

Checkered Flag AIM-120

The drills aim to train the Global Response Force (GRF), a rapidly deployable contingent, including air, maritime and land components, able to deploy worldwide round-the-clock to respond to crisis, to deter escalation or to fight a war.

These large-scale exercises provide an invaluable opportunity for legacy aircraft to integrate their capabilities with those owned by F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation fighters in a real-world, highly lethal environment.

It would be interesting to know how the stealth planes cooperated during the drills. The F-35 was not built as an air superiority platform and the Air Force says it needs the F-22  in combat.

When the Raptor was produced it was flying “with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system.” So much so, the Raptor has to be modernized and kept up-to-date with cutting edge technology otherwise the JSF will be “irrilevant.”

Anyway, as recently explained, integrated operations are vital to gain air superiority in a modern A2/AD (anti-access/aerial denial environment) scenario.

Image credit: Senior Airman Sergio A. Gamboa / U.S. Air Force.

Dario Leone has contributed to this post.



About David Cenciotti 4194 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.