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168th Wing Refuels the Forces at Red Flag-Alaska 23-3

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey
  • 168th Wing

A 168th Wing KC-135 Stratotanker crew chief calls over the radio to the 168th Wing pilots up in the cockpit while inspecting the vertical stabilizer. The crew chief acts as their eyes at the back of the plane, making their way around the aircraft to continue conducting preflight inspections. The pilot looks out the window over his left shoulder, listening to the engines before rolling off the tanker ramp and taking off into the skies during Red Flag 23-3 to refuel aircraft across the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, the largest combat training range in the world.

Red Flag-Alaska 23-3 ramped up on Aug. 14, bringing together military forces from the United States, Australia, and other partner nations, creating intensive and realistic war-fighting training scenarios. Red Flag prepares Air Force, Joint, and Coalition aircrews to fight against peer-level adversaries in any combat environment.

The 168th Wing took part in RF-A 23-3 and maximized combat effectiveness and survival awareness while operating in a dynamic and simulated high-threat environment through operational and tactical training.

“Tankers in Red Flag – Alaska 23-3 are sharpening their tactics by practicing in an advanced threat environment, utilizing realistic threats in complex training scenarios," said Maj. Elliott Sahli, 353d Combat Training Squadron, 23-3 Team Chief.

During the exercise, various forces increased interoperability while honing their combat skills and deepening their understanding of coordinated operations across different domains in the modern battlespace.

“Red Flag sorties are where we sharpen our flying skills tactically, working to increase survivability rates and gain exposure to the risks and threats we could face during initial combat missions in a high-end war,” said Maj Jeffrey Boesche, 168th Wing KC-135 Stratotanker pilot.

Red Flag scenarios are based on striking targets and a large airlift contingent. These missions require air refueling to deliver air superiority and global reach.

Preflight checks occur on every flight mission and ensure the aircraft and crews are ready to conduct aerial refueling missions, providing air power to partners. Preparations for each flight are briefed and set into motion.

“We may employ our aircraft a little differently according to what type of air space we are entering,” said Tech Sgt. Christian Armour, 168th Wing KC-135 Stratotanker aircrew boom operator. “We still have the same mission to refuel, but we prepare to operate under different scenarios that emulate the peer-level adversary.”

Red Flag provides opportunity to build partnerships amongst participating units interacting together. The wartime scenarios allow for interoperability and different units and countries to know how each other operates under different scenarios.

Sharing knowledge of adversarial tactics, techniques, and procedures to participating units ensures the U.S. and its Allies receive the best air combat training possible.

Red Flag-Alaska exercises integrate forces in realistic threat environments and date back to 1975 when held at Clark Air Base, Philippines, and it was called Cope Thunder.