Tag Archives: Nellis Air Force Base

Nellis AFB Strike Eagles: the 17th Weapons Squadron’s F-15Es at work

Part of the 57th Wing, U.S. Air Force’s largest composite wing (that oversees all flying ops at Nellis AFB, Nevada, including the Red Flag and Green Flag exercises), the USAF Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses to officers of the combat and mobility air forces.

It is made of 17 squadrons, 10 of those based at Nellis and seven geographically separated: the ten USAFWS squadrons based at Nellis are the 8 WPS (Command and Control Operations), 16 WPS (F-16), 17 WPS (F-15E), 19 WPS (Intelligence), 26 WPS (MQ-1/MQ-9), 34 WPS (HH-60), 57 WPSS (Operational Support), 66 WPS (A-10), 328 WPS (Space/ICBM), and 433 WPS (F-15C/F-22). The remaining seven units not located at Nellis include the 14 WPS at Hurlburt Field, Fla. (AC-130/MC-130/U-28); 29 WPS at Little Rock AFB, Ark. (C-130); 57 WPS at McGuire AFB, N.J. (C-17); 77 WPS at Dyess AFB, Texas (B-1); 325 WPS at Whiteman AFB, Mo. (B-2); 340 WPS at Barksdale AFB, La. (B-52); and the 509 WPS at Fairchild AFB, Wash. (KC-135).

The School produces approximately 80 graduates every six months: expert instructors on weapons, weapons systems, and air and space integration trained through a course including an average of 400 hours of lessons and a two-week air campaign/battle staged over the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Since the Aggressors’ F-15s and F-16s are the most famous and very well known planes of the 57th Wing (see the related articles at the bottom of this post to find the previous posts dealing with the 64 AGRS and 65 AGRS), I asked Tony Lovelock, The Aviationist’s special correspondent at Red Flag 12-2 and 12-3, to take some pictures of the less known 17 WPS (Weapons Squadron) F-15E Strike Eagles at work.

Here’s a selection of the most interesting photographs he brought back from Nellis AFB.

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Video: F-22 Raptor in action during Red Flag 12-3

As reported by Wired’s Danger Room, the F-22 Raptor has finally achieved the full combat readiness.

The latest (software) upgrade (Block 3.1) has brought the capability to find and engage ground targets using the Synthetic Aperture Radar mapping and eight GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) to the troubled stealthy fighter that remained grounded for several months in 2011 following “hypoxia-like” symptoms experienced by Raptors pilots in 12 incidents since 2008.

Since the first modified planes were delivered to the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, those that took part to the Red Flag 12-3 at Nellis AFB, Nevada , belonging to the 27th FS from Langley AFB, Virginia, did not feature the Increment 3.1 and could only play the air-to-air role.

The following interesting HD video shows the 1st FW planes at work during the most recent Flag.

More than 70 combat planes involved twice a day in world's most realistic training exercise: welcome to the Red Flag 12-3

Taking place from Feb. 26 to Mar. 16, 2012, Red Flag 12-3 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, was attended by combat planes belonging to 12 different U.S. Squadrons and from the 75 Sqn of Royal Australian Air Force and 2 Sqn of the UK’s Royal Air Force.

The Red Flag (RF) is a realistic training exercise, organized several times a year at Nellis AFB and conducted by the 414th Combat Training Squadron on the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), a military training area of more than 12,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land where 1,900 possible targets and anti-aircraft systems are dispersed.

The drills, whose aim is to train pilots from the U.S. and allied air forces to operate, survive and win together in the most demanding current combat scenarios, feature also a “Red Air”, an opposing air force with fighters from the Air Force’s 64th and 65th AGRS capable to threaten strike packages in the same way a modern enemy would do in a real war.

During the last two RFs, U.S. Air Force Weapons School instructor pilots served as “tactical mentors” to participants, providing advanced knowledge to steepen the learning curve for participating units and help them to fully exploit the training opportunities provided in the NTTR.

“Today the United States Air Force operates in both contested and uncontested combat arenas; however, in the future, airpower, space and cyber domains will be both contested and denied and we must be prepared,” said Col. Robert Garland, U.S. Air Force Weapons School Commandant in the official news release on the Nellis AFB website. “Through the Weapons School’s support of Red Flag and our tactical mentoring program, we are able to help build, teach and lead participants, training at the highest level ensuring victory against any competitor.”

RF 12-3 featured two daily waves with the scheduled departure of more than 70 aircraft,  involved in missions of all types (lasting up to 8 hours), including:  MC-12Ws, EP-3 ARES (Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System), EA-6Bs, E-2D s, F-15Cs , F-22s, B-2s, F-16CMs and  F-16CJs, F-18Cs, E-8 JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System), E-3s, F-15Es, and RC-135V/W Rivet Joint, as well as RAAF F-18s and RAF Tornado GR4s.

The Aviationist’s contributor Tony Lovelock had the opportunity to attend the RF 12-3 Media Day and take the following interesting pictures of the most interesting aircraft departing or returning from Nellis AFB on Feb 13 – 14, 2012 (please note that the Thunderbirds F-16D did not take part to the exercise).

All images: Tony Lovelock for The Aviationist

Photo: MC-12W spyplane specialized in "find, fix, and finish" bad guys at its Red Flag debut

Red Flag 12-3, that took place at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from Feb. 27 to Mar. 16 saw the first ever use of the MC-12W ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) plane in the exercise.

Belonging to the 489th Reconnaissance Squadron of Beale AFB, California, (activated on Aug. 26, 2011) the MC-12s took part to the Red Flag supporting ground forces in simulated “permissive ops” scenarios, in which air threats were limited, according to the information officially released by the U.S. Air Force.

The MC-12, first fielded in 2009, is a highly modified Hawker Beechcraft 350 and 350ER with a SIGINT (SIGnal INTelligence) console and sensors capable to intercept enemy communication, fuselage bulges containing beyond the line of sight comms equipment, and a Wescam MX-15 camera that can supply live video feeds to troops on the ground. The crew includes two pilots, a sensors operator and a cryptologist who analyzes the data collected by the plane during its 6-hr missions.

Even if this was their first Red Flag, MC-12 crews have already flown several thousand missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, where their main purpose has been tracking high-value and time-sensitive targets, including people (Taliban leaders and commanders, insurgents, terrorists and other bad guys), as well as provide tactical intelligence and airborne command and control for air-to-ground operations.

Although they can stay airborne as long as drones, these planes are considered extremely valuable because, being manned, they can be flown more effectively and safely than robots in bad weather conditions.

The following pictures were taken at Nellis by The Aviationist’s contributor Tony Lovelock.


For the real aviation geek: F-22s, F-15s and B-2s filmed "in action" during Red Flag. From the ground. With audio.

Clear skies, contrails, a radio receiver tuned on the boomfreq, three KC-135 tankers and a lot of thisty receivers taking part to the Red Flag exercise. These are the things that make the following one of the geekiest videos I’ve seen recently.

Filmed from the ground by Paul Raguse from a spot located about 11 miles West of Caliente, Nevada, along Highway 93 on Mar. 9, 2012, the video shows two tankers equipped with the flying boom and one with the hose and drogue system refueling F-22s, F-15s, F-18s.

With a nice finale: the transit of a high flying B-2 stealth bomber.