Royal Australian Air Force Hercules crews have been using their skills in the world’s most realistic airborne exercise. From February 21 to March 15, they are participants at Exercise Red Flag 11-3 at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, facing the world’s most comprehensive airborne warfighting simulation.
Red Flag 11-3 is coordinated by the United States Air Force and features an exercise space over 24,000 square kilometres of desert north of Las Vegas. An 88-strong Australian contingent from RAAF Base Richmond’s No. 37 Squadron are operating a pair of C-130H Hercules transport aircraft. The Hercules were supported in the transit by a C-17A Globemaster.
C-130H are each powered by four-turboprop engines and can lift up to 20-tonnes of cargo, or 92 passengers. Flying alongside fighters, surveillance aircraft and tankers, they will face the world’s most realistic simulated warzone.
Wing Commander Mark McCallum, Commanding Officer No.37 Squadron, said the C-130’s would fly tactical airlift missions at Red Flag. “Despite our Squadron having a busy start to 2011 with civil aid tasking, we’ve managed to balance some intense practice for the missions we’re facing at Red Flag,” Wing Commander McCallum said. “No other exercise in the world has the same level of complexity in its exercise area, and no other exercise delivers the same experience.
“The Hercules will be flying day-time and night-time missions, and could drop paratroops by static-line or freefall, or land on a desert airstrip to pick up personnel. With the right escort, right tactics and teamwork amongst all the players, our crews will get through the exercise area unscathed and complete the mission successfully. It’s our chance to demonstrate our skill among the best Air Forces in the world, learn new tactics and methods of operation, and hone our skills at operating the Hercules in a high-threat environment.”
Air Force has also sent a team of eight from RAAF Base Williamtown’s No. 4 Squadron, providing close air support and tactical landing zone reconnaissance. They are also operating alongside a 20-strong team from Army’s 2 Commando Regiment.