BUFFs are among the highlights of Red Flag 20-2 underway in Nevada.
A bunch of aircraft are currently taking part in RF 20-2, the latest iteration of Red Flag, one of the U.S. Air Force’s largest and most realistic combat training exercises held multiple times throughout the year at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
“Red Flag allows us to prioritize combat missions, mission commander upgrades and unique experiences that contribute most to readiness and partnering,” said Col. William Reese, 414th Combat Training Squadron (CTS) commander, on Nellis AFB’s official page. “This combat training exercise permits us to work with a variety of aircraft from attack, fighter and bomber to reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and Command and Control aircraft as well as ground based Command and Control, Space, and Cyber Forces.”
Aircraft and personnel deploy to Nellis AFB to attend RF under the Air Expeditionary Force concept and make up the exercise’s “Blue” forces. Local-based 64th AGRS F-16s, often reinforced by contract adversaries, make up the bulk of the Red Force.
Red Flag exercises provide mission commanders, maintenance personnel, ground controllers, and air, space and cyber operators the opportunity to experience realistic combat scenarios to prepare for future warfare. And a future warfare will almost certainly see the involvement of the iconic B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber.
The current edition of Red Flag is attended among the others by Spanish Eurofighters, Italian F-35As and F-2000 Typhoons, accompanied by a G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft, German Eurofighters and Tornado jets, NATO E-3A AWACS, USAF 20th FW F-16s, 62nd FS F-35As, U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-232 F/A-18C Hornets and VMFT-401 F-5s and U.S. Navy VAQ-135 Growlers. And also USAF B-52s belonging to 2nd BW from Barksdale AFB, Lousiana. Interestingly, there are a total of 10x B-52s at Nellis now, including six from the 5th Bomb Wing from Minot AFB, North Dakota, that are deployed there for Green Flag (another realistic exercise, similar in format to the RF, that focuses on the Air to Surface domain primarily conducted in conjunction with US Army National Training Center exercises at Fort Irwin, California).
While many European aircraft, that we can consider quite rare in that part of the world (just think to the NATO E-3 AWACS, to the Italian F-35s and CAEW at their first Red Flag ever, or the special-colored Eurofighter of the Ejército del Aire) attract the interest of local photographers, the “BUFF” remains one of the most spectacular aircraft to photograph, both inside the base and from the various spotting locations around Nellis: B-52s on the pattern for 21R are quite a sight. You can find many cool shots of the bombers on base turn for landing on Facebook and Instagram; in this post you can have a look at a few taken by official USAF photographers inside the base as the 2nd BW B-52s arrived at Nellis ahead of the official kickoff of RF-20.
For those interested, here are the serials of the 5th BW B-52s currently at Nellis: 60-0005, 60-0012, 60-0017, 60-0044, 61-0003 and 61-0034; 2nd BW B-52s are 60-0001, 60-0025, 61-0002 and 61-0012.