By Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak, 366th Fighter Wing
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho —
For 46 years, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Soldiers from around the globe have congregated at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for the U.S. Air Force’s most premier combat training exercise, Red Flag. For 39 of those years, the Republic of Singapore has strengthened their joint force capabilities by integrating with the U.S. Air Force.
Mountain Home AFB’s 428th Fighter Squadron successfully completed Red Flag 21-2; allowing RSAF Airmen to practice air-to-air combat over the Nevada Test and Training range.
“Red Flag was made more realistic by having a dedicated adversarial force, employing advanced tactics and electronic warfare,” said Lt. Col. Shewan Goh, Peace Carvin V Detachment commander.
For some, this was their first time at such a large scale exercise.
“I walked into a lot of heritage and history behind Red Flag,” said LTA Valampurithaven Thamilarasan, 428th FS pilot. “I was excited to have this opportunity.”
Thamilarasan explained that one of his biggest obstacles as a first timer was that he was not used to flying with so many different aircraft in the same airspace.
“Integrating with different aircraft has been valuable because now we understand the tactics they use and can incorporate them within our own air force,” Thamilarasan said. “The experience we are gaining as an aircrew and ground crew is unmatched.”
With COVID-19 still prominent the 428th FS has done their due diligence to ensure the safety of their Airmen and those around them by enforcing the use of masks, social distancing and personal hygiene.
The challenges don’t stop there; pilots had to adapt to Nevada’s weather patterns.
“Something that I’m not used to is conducting an exercise in such bad weather,” Thamilarasan said. “But this is the real world, you don’t just stop a mission because it gets challenging. I’m glad we got to work through it because now we understand the contingencies that need to happen.”
The RSAF has proven that they can overcome any challenge thrown their way.
“Our Airmen have done very well in this exercise,” Goh said. “The learning curve is very steep, but it comes down to hard work, discipline and pride.”