2015 Event Review

Red Flag 15-4, August 17-28, 2015
Location: Nellis AFB, NV
Admission: Closed to the general public, viewing available from off-base
Parking: N/A
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: None, not an air show
 
Red Flag emblem
Red Flag 15-4

Although the schedule for Red Flag 15-4 had been announced early in the year, as the date neared none of the usual updates appeared: no list of participating units, no announcement of media day, nothing. Rumors were, of course, floating around the internet, but nothing official. Since Las Vegas was just a short flight away I decided to check it out anyway. Even from off-base the viewing is very good and there were bound to be lots of aircraft. In addition to any Blue Force units flying in to participate, there would be Red Force Aggressors and the resident weapons and tactics development units. Plus, a Green Flag exercise was also going on. The trip was a go.

I started to have my doubts as we neared McCarran airport and began to descend. It was early morning and the temperature was already in triple digits. That was to be expected, though. After all, it was August in the Southwestern desert. But when I looked out the window I saw something quite unexpected. Although the skies were crystal clear at altitude, the ground was covered in a thick grey layer of crud. The westerly winds were carrying the smoke from the wildfires which were ravaging the California forests. Aircraft would be flying, but would I be able to get any useful photos? I was especially concerned since I would be shooting from off-base. Heat haze would already be a factor, but now there was going to be smoke too… What if nothing out of the ordinary showed up? I'd be taking pictures of grey planes against a grey sky.

But I needn't have worried. Not only did some very interesting units show up, but the skies cleared sufficiently to get some decent photos. The highlights of this Flag were clearly the Middle Eastern participants. The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) brought five F-16s and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) brought five F-15D Baz and five F-15I Ra'am aircraft. It's not often you see units from either Air Force here in the US, and even rarer to see both at the same time. They had flown together across the Atlantic, refueled by two IAF KC-707 Re'em tankers. The Jordanian Vipers bore standard overall grey paint schemes, but the Israeli F-15Is were camouflaged with desert browns and greens and the F-15Ds, although grey, at least had interesting artwork on their tails. Joining them on the Blue team were numerous F-16 units from across the US. We've chosen to share with you images of the more colorful ones. We've featured the two red-tailed Royal Singaporean Air Force Vipers before, but the 50th anniversary "Wild Weasel" Viper of the "Fighting Fifty Fifth" was a pleasant surprise. A Raptor squadron from Hawaii also participated, but no bombers took part in this exercise, so the "heavies" were limited to KC-135 tankers, E-3 AWACS and C-17 transport aircraft. Electronic warfare aircraft seemed to be limited to EA-18G Growlers of VAQ-131 "Lancers" from NAS Whidbey Island. We hope you enjoy the photo coverage of Red Flag 15-4 and we look forward to returning to Nellis AFB for Red Flag 16-1.

Some of the Red Flag participiants:

McDonnell Douglas F-15D Baz, IAF 106 Squadron “Spearhead”, Tel Nof Airbase, Israel

McDonnell Douglas F-15I Ra'am, IAF 69 Squadron "Hammers", Hatzerim Airbase, Israel

General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon, USAF 55 FS “Fighting Fifty Fifth”, Shaw AFB

General Dynamics F-16AM Fighting Falcon, RJAF 1 Squadron, Muwaffaq Salti Air Base, Jordan

General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon, USAF 425 FS “Thunderbolts”, Luke AFB (Republic of Singapore Air Force)

Boeing KC-707 Re’em, IAF 120 Squadron “Desert Giants”, Nevatim Airbase, Israel

Boeing E-3G Sentry AWACS, USAF 960 AACS, Tinker AFB

Boeing C-17A Globemaster III, USAF 437AW, Charleston AFB

EA-18G Growlers of VAQ-131 "Lancers" from NAS Whidbey Island
F-22 Raptor squadron from Hawaii
57th Wing, 64th Aggressor Squadron, F-16Cs and F15Cs, Nellis AFB, NV
 
 
Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for The Aviation Magazine

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