Red Flag 17-1 Combat Exercise Near Las Vegas: a Paradise for Aircraft Spotters.

Huge Variety of International Tactical and Support Aircraft Invade Nellis AFB for Realistic Exercise

The ramp at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada has been a paradise for aircraft spotters since the beginning of the Red Flag 17-1 large-scale training exercise last week.

The Red Flag exercises at Nellis are planned and executed by the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center. The exercises simulate actual combat scenarios in regions around the world. A key component of the Red Flag training exercises are practice in integrating air assets from international air forces so they can accomplish a high degree of interoperability in an actual combat situation, wherever it may happen around the world.

Red Flag training scenarios frequently involve the delivery of live, full-scale air to ground weaponry on secure ranges in Nevada. The participants must “fight” their way into the target area, execute the planned strike, and egress the contested airspace.

While air-to-air engagements are fought using a variety of simulation technologies some air-to-ground exercises use live weapons such as bombs and air to ground missiles. At least one aircraft in videos emerged so far was carrying live anti-radiation air-to-ground missiles used for engaging surface-to-air missile (SAM) threats.

A maintainer assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing conducts preflight checks on an F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 24, 2017. The F-35A is one of two U.S. Air Force fifth generation multi-role fighter aircraft participating in 17-1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

The list of aircraft at this Red Flag exercise, named “Red Flag 17-1” as the number “1” Red Flag of the year 20”17”, hence “17-1”, is truly remarkable: USAF B-1 Lancer heavy bombers, EC-130 Compass Call electronic warfare aircraft, U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, E-8 Joint STARs surveillance aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and F-15 Eagle fighters from the USAF, KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft, E-7 aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force, Typhoon FGR4 aircraft from the RAF among others.

This is the first deployment to a Red Flag exercise for the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, these from Hill AFB, and the first large deployment to an exercise since the F-35 was declared combat ready in August 2016. As already explained in a previous post, teaming up with the Raptors, the Lightning IIs have so far achieved a striking 15:1 kill ratio with the Aggressors F-16s.

U.S. Air Force Colonel Dave Smith, commander of the 419th Fighter Wing, the F-35 wing deployed to Red Flag 17-1, told media, “Red Flag is hands-down the best training in the world to ensure our Airmen are fully mission ready. It’s as close to combat operations as you can get.”

There are four Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB each year with each one providing different combat simulation exercises as well as a unique opportunity for aviation enthusiasts to catch some incredible photos and videos of the aircraft launching and recovering at the airbase off Las Vegas.

Enjoy this cool video of the air ops at Nellis during a Red Flag.



About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.


  1. “Very soon this 5th gen fighter will be equal to or cost less than inferior 4th gen aircraft.”

    Pure mind altering Kool Aid from yet another twisted F-35 fanboy. The only thing that’s been consistent to date about the F-35 is that its ALWAYS over budget and years behind schedule.

    As usual the message from Leroy here is that anyone that doesn’t think that the F-35 is the greatest thing since sliced bread is either stupid, misinformed, or working for the enemy. Which makes me wonder just how much are they’re paying Leroy to show up at websites like this all over the internet everyday to spew these vapid diatribes against individuals who question the now long list of serious issues with the both the airplane and the program.

    Meanwhile the latest report from the DOT&E seems to see the F-35 in just a slightly different light which is always important to remember when reading the latest oral flatulence from this guy.

    • F-35 just came off of Red Flag 17-1 with a final kill count of 145-7 (kill ratio 21:1). The 7 hits were all because someone spotted them on the range, and the exercise included more threats than have ever been deployed at any Flag (to push the F-35 into having to have some sort of loss),

      Had Gripen been there, not a single one would have survived. Your jealousy over total U.S. 5th gen air dominance is self evident. I feel sorry for you. You really are clueless, in denial, or both.

      Proof at 56:00, which I marked so no one has to watch the entire video. Perhaps if you did though you might learn something, but your total lack of desire to educate yourself will with 100% certainty keep you from watching any part of this YouTube video. That’s the thing about stupid people. They are too dumb to even know that they are totally clueless.

  2. Yes but… Aggressors plane couldn’t replicate a real threat, since they are old F16 and F15 blocks.

    • Yes, just like the F-15Es with AESA at Mt. Home AFB that took on F-35 and came away with an 8:0 kill ratio in favor of the JSF. To say Red Flag is not capable of simulating real-world threats is just plain stupid. It is the premier air combat exercise performed anywhere in the world. Your statement tells me that you don’t know a damn thing about fighter aviation.

    • A mistaken comment Luig. You think the Air Force does not compensate for that? The Aggressors are trained to mimic enemy tactics and procedures, and the aircraft they fly are outfitted to mimic Russian and Chinese equipment. They have systems onboard that you have no knowledge of, nor should you.

      Do you think the USAF is gonna tell you the secrets of Red Flag? That’s nuts! Trust me, the Aggressor Squadrons know what they’re doing, RF is the best simulated combat exercise in the world, and the fact that F-35 dominated it (21:1 kill ratio) is something that enemies and allies alike need to sit up and take notice of. I guarantee you they are. Even the Aeronautica Militare (I’m assuming you are living in Italy).

      There is no plane in the world (except perhaps the F-22) that can take on an F-35. We learn more with each passing exercise, and remember – the plane is still limited to 7gs and hasn’t incorporated Block 3F. Once they do, and especially after Block 4, the fighter will only become more INVINCIBLE. For those who are jealous because their nation won’t have them too bad. The U.S. will always be #1. Accept the inevitable. Typhoon, Gripen, Rafale, Sukhoi, MiG, Chengdu, Shenyang … any and all others … are inferior. By a substantial margin. Even F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 in any current or future iteration. Denial of that FACT simply means that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  3. Yes, the one in the left hand image is part of the Talon HATE system (the dorsal fairing).

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