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Army April 14, 2011
Commandos raise the red flag
By Eamon Hamilton
THE world's most sophisticated air combat exercise
isn't limited to the sky -- ground combat was an
important part of Exercise Red Flag, which this year
featured Australian participants.
Sydney-based 2 Cdo Regt sent a commando platoon
group with specialist support for the exercise, held at
the Nevada Test and Training Range from February 21
to March 11.
Working with Australian commando-qualified joint
terminal attack controllers from artillery and RAAF's
4 Sqn, the commandos played out the tactics, tech-
niques and procedures (TTP) with coalition partners as
they would in operations.
The Australian contingent launched into the range
from Creech Air Force Base, operating alongside the
US Army's Special Forces Group from Fort Bragg
and the US Air Force's (USAF's) Special Operations
The relationship between the Australian and US
units is built on experiences at Ex Red Flag in previous
years, as well as on current operations in Afghanistan.
OC 2 Cdo Regt Operations Support Company Maj
R said Red Flag provided an opportunity to practise
and refine Special Operations Forces' TTPs with other
coalition elements, centred on current operational
parameters and enabling assets.
That included a rare opportunity to work with front-
line USAF and Coalition aircraft in the 24,000 sqkm
"We are conducting combined missions which
incorporate Hercules for air drop, Chinooks for force
projection and tactical lift, and Black Hawks for simu-
lated casualty evacuations," Maj R said.
"We also work with USAF A-10 Warthogs for live
close air support, and Royal Air Force Tornado GR 4s
for live strike."
The Tornados carried Paveway IV guided bombs,
which mount a laser and GPS guidance package to a
225kg Mk 82 bomb.
Select commandos participated in combat search
and rescue missions with USAF units.
In the skies above, F-22A Raptor stealth fighters
and F-16 fighters faced off against USAF Aggressor
units equipped with their own F-15 and F-16 fighters.
Similarly, the commandos from 2 Cdo Regt faced
a hostile environment on the ground, which bore close
resemblance to operational theatres.
"A US Defence contractor supplies the opposing
force in the Red Flag ground war and their members
are equipped and trained in insurgent operations, which
significantly adds to the realism of the training," Maj
"The physical terrain of the Nevada Test and
Training Range is almost exactly the same as the desert
"Most of the US supporting assets that attend Red
Flag use it as pre-deployment training, so the integra-
tion with coalition assets, employment of offensive
fires and requirement to respond to an unknown enemy
threat make the training demanding and challenging.
"Being conducted over two to three weeks, the
exercise allows us to conduct debriefs between air-
crews and JTACs, which facilitate improvements to our
processes through a short learning loop."
CAS mission: US Air Force A-10 Warthogs were among the coalition aircraft providing close air support for Australian commandos
during Ex Red Flag.
Photos by Eamon Hamilton
Friendly faces: Australian Hercules transport
aircraft and RAAF support personnel deployed
alongside commandos on Ex Red Flag 2011.
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