Beautiful Aircraft are going to be a Treat for U.S. Spotters and Photographers Along Las Vegas Blvd.
The crowd of aviation spotters and photographers that forms as a daily ritual during any Red Flag air combat simulation exercise along highway 604/North Las Vegas Boulevard just north of Nellis are being treated to some unusual and exotic aircraft during the Red Flag 18-3 exercise at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada this month.
Six rare, attractive delta-wing Israeli Aircraft Industry (IAI) Kfir single seat, single engine, delta wing jet fighters from the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (Colombian Air Force) will be in attendance at Red Flag 18-3 along with a contingent supporting their operations from Colombia. There are only 21 of the aircraft in service with Colombia according to the Flight International Global Air Forces 2018 database. This is only the second time the aircraft have visited Nellis AFB for a Red Flag exercise. The last time the Kfirs participated in Red Flag was 2012 (as we reported here). At that time, this writer spotted for the first time the delta-winged jets staging out of Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona.
Red Flag 18-3 is a highly realistic combat exercise over the vast Las Vegas training ranges mostly to the north of Nellis AFB in the Nevada desert. The huge area comprises bombing ranges, large low-flying training areas and the secret “Area 51” test ranges and flight facilities. It is adjacent to the famous Jedi Transition or “Star Wars Canyon” low flying training area just inside California. Photographers in the right place at the right time could catch glimpses and hopefully shots of the Colombian Kfirs if they decide to fly through the low flying training area.
Colombian Air Force Combat Squadron 111 has spent more than a year in preparation and training for the Red Flag 18-3 combat exercise. The contingent will be supported by a Colombian KC-767 aerial tanker from 811 Squadron. Approximately 130 Colombian officers and an unspecified number of enlisted personnel will support the exercise deployment.
The group of aircraft left Colombia on July 2, 2018 to join Red Flag at Nellis following a 2,015-mile ferry flight from Malambo, Atlantico in northeastern Colombia. As with their visit back in 2012 when we first spotted the aircraft, they have stopped at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, before continuing to Nellis.
According to several sources, The Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (Colombian Air Force) recently updated their unique Kfir combat aircraft to the latest C-60 avionics and capability standard provided by Israel Aerospace Industries. This recent update to the older Kfir aircraft, first acquired by Colombia back in 1989-1990, greatly expand the Kfir’s range of weapons and sensors. Sources suggest these upgrades may place the Colombian Kfirs on par with the F-16 Block 52 upgrades.
Along with flying real antinarcotics and counterinsurgency missions, Colombian Kfirs were involved in the interception of two Russian Tu-160 “White Swan” (NATO reporting name “Blackjack”) heavy bombers flying out of Venezuela in early November, 2013. The giant Russian Tu-160s did not have diplomatic clearance to enter Colombian airspace and were intercepted and briefly escorted by the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana Kfirs before they left the area.
Top image: Tony Lovelock