F-16CG #88-0445 of the 416th FLTS takes off from Nellis
during Red Flag
Photo: John Mumaw
2/18/2009 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CA -- The 416th Flight
Test Squadron "Skulls" conquered the vast bombing
and gunnery ranges of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., as they participated
in Red Flag 09-2 from Jan. 26 to Feb. 6, marking the first time
an Air Force Materiel Command unit has ever deployed and participated
in the exercise.
Administered by the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center and Nellis
through the 414th Combat Training Squadron involving the air
forces of the United States and the United Kingdom, Red Flag
is the Air Force's premier combat training exercise.
"I'm proud of the entire 412th Test Wing team," said
Col. William Thornton, 412th TW commander. "Our maintenance
team was called out as having the best operation on the flightline.
Red Flag participation allowed us to conduct better and more
realistic testing, while saving hundreds of thousands of taxpayer
dollars. This historic deployment was critical to our evaluation
of new capabilities being fielded. We could not have replicated
this intense level of testing here at Edwards with all the assets
assembled for Red Flag. We validated many of the new capabilities
under test and more importantly, found a few things we need
to investigate further. Ultimately this deployment will result
in increased combat capability to the warfighter in less time
The exercise provides realistic training in a combined air,
ground and electronic threat environment while providing for
a free exchange of ideas between forces. However, the 416th
FLTS team also used the Red Flag environment to evaluate the
F-16 Fighting Falcons' latest operating system, M5.1+ software.
"The Red Flag environment allowed us to evaluate the
interoperability of our five M5.1+ F-16 Fighting Falcons with
other aircraft, such as F-22 Raptor, B-2 Spirit and MQ-1Predator,"
said Lt. Col. Todd Ericson, 416th FLTS commander. "We also
assessed the aircraft's performance in both a (Global Positioning
System) and electronic jamming environment -- all of which would
have been impossible to accomplish at Edwards for both logistical
and cost reasons."
Through the Red Flag exercise, the 416th FLTS was able to fly
54 sorties at a cost equivalent to flying eight to 10 Integrated
Systems Evaluation sorties at Edwards.
An ISE is an evaluation of the military utility of the aircraft
where test pilots use all the systems as they would be in combat
prior to providing a fielding recommendation to operational
"Red Flag allowed us to provide the most thorough, integrated
evaluation of an F-16 software release in the 30-year history
of the Combined Test Force," Colonel Ericson said. "We
also saved nearly $100,000 in range costs by conducting live
air-to-ground weapons delivery evaluations at Red Flag as opposed
to scheduling a dedicated range time as an exclusive event."
The Combined Test Force was able to evaluate the aircraft in
missions currently flown by the F-16 such as defensive counter
air, interdiction, suppression and destruction of enemy air
defenses, time sensitive targeting and close air support.
Deploying to Red Flag provided an opportunity for the 416th
FLTS to expand their view of the software and see the enhancements
in combat capability proven on each sortie, Colonel Ericson
"We were very pleased with the results that we had,"
said Maj. Carrie Reinhardt, 416th FLTS assistant director of
operations and project officer for the Red Flag deployment.
"We had a 100 percent mission complete rate, which is outstanding
and exceeded our expectations on the evaluation of the software."
The 416th FLTS contingent consisted of about 100 personnel,
including pilots, maintainers, contractors as well as government
civilian and military flight test engineers.
"The team work was fantastic because everyone came together
to provide support," Major Reinhardt said. "The maintainers
were top notch and we received invaluable support from the contractors.
The whole experience was great, and everybody was excited to
be participating in Red Flag."
Colonel Ericson said the Red Flag deployment was a challenging
exercise that the 416th FLTS was able to hurdle.
"The Skulls rose to the challenge and excelled,"
he said. 'It was not a trivial task to take a unit that has
never deployed before, go to Red Flag and execute 54 test sorties
in the period of two weeks. Overall, I was impressed daily by
the dedication and professionalism of the Skulls throughout
the deployment. I'd be proud to go into combat with each and
Source: USAF Press Release by Senior Airman Julius Delos