3 (F) SQN Update
December was a busy month of two halves for the Sqn. Socially, a number of functions were attended including a thoroughly successful Sqn Christmas party at the Hilton in Lincoln. On the professional side, the preparation stepped up for Ex RED FLAG 16-1, the biggest air exercise in the World, held at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada.
Prior to deployment the Sqn pilots took part in Ex VIRTUAL FLAG. This was synthetic training conducted in simulators at the Air Battle Space Training Centre (ABTC) at RAF Waddington. The pilots operated alongside the ABMs who would also be deploying on Ex RED FLAG. This proved a valuable learning opportunity to practice tactics and also a familiarisation of the Nellis AFB procedures.
After a short break for Christmas, the Sqn deployed to Nellis AFB on 5 Dec 16 and for two weeks prior to the Ex start we worked with the 422nd. This unit is the USAF test and evaluation squadron, similar in concept to 41(R) Sqn, but as with so much in the USA, a whole order of magnitude bigger, operating A-10, F-15, F-16, F-22 and F-35. Flying with and against these aircraft as well as F-18s from the USMC and USN was a rare privilege and valuable training and one that none who took part will forget. Of particular note was another first for 3(F) Sqn when we flew with and against the F-35.
So, after much preparation, some excellent steak meals for Eng management, unexpected rain storms for MSF, and some additional thanks to the armourers, Ex RED FLAG started on 25 Jan 2016. The first mission involved over 80 aircraft from the US and Australia as well as the UK. The engineers worked round the clock doing sterling work in relatively austere conditions and the serviceability record was outstanding. For most of the pilots this was their first experience of operating alongside such a large package of aircraft; the first challenge was taxiing out to the runway with a traffic jam of jets all the way down the taxi-way. Airborne, if not being shot at by the aggressor jets playing the enemy, pilots had to avoid being shot down by the multiple surface to air missile systems on the Nellis range. And this was Day 1, week 1…Over the three week Ex the intensity of the training was ramped up significantly and 3(F) Sqn performed well throughout. RED FLAG is the most valuable training that Pilots, Engineers and Mission Support staff will receive and will be put to use whatever faces the Sqn next.
Outside of RED FLAG, our departing Australian Exchange Officer Flt Lt Nilson received an AOC 1Gp’s commendation, with Sgts Bedford and Shelley, and SAC(T) Tichband receiving Stn Cdr’s Commendations in the Queen’s New Years Honours, marking some truly outstanding contributions to the Service. The Sqn is in fine shape as it prepares to face the year ahead.