A C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron flies over Fort Greely, Alaska during RED FLAG-Alaska 21-2, June 24, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

A C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron flies over Fort Greely, Alaska during RED FLAG-Alaska 21-2, June 24, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

Multinational Air Force exercise wraps up successfully

Three nations and hundreds of aircraft participated.

A major Air Force exercise hosted at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson hosting a number of international partners ended successfully last week, according to one of the officers leading the exercise.

Red Flag- Alaska is a major annual exercise simulating an aerial combat environment hosted across 67,000 square miles of airspace, allowing hundreds of planes to participate, according to the Air Force.

“Red Flag – Alaska 21-2 exercise was a huge success and met or exceeded all goals,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Eads, commander of the 354th Operations Group’s Detachment 1, in an email. “Between aircraft located at Eielson (Air Force Base) and JBER, we launched approximately 500 sorties and flew more than 1,000 hours.”

A Republic of Korea F-15 Eagle departs after refueling from a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender assigned to the 9th Air Refueling Squadron over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex June 23, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo / Senior Airman Emily Farnsworth)

A Republic of Korea F-15 Eagle departs after refueling from a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender assigned to the 9th Air Refueling Squadron over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex June 23, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo / Senior Airman Emily Farnsworth)

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force and Republic of Korea Air Force sent detachments to the exercise, including fighters backed up by tanker and airborne command and control aircraft, Eads said. International participation is a regular part of Red Flag- Alaska, Eads said, though it was disrupted last year by pandemic conditions.

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“The next RF-A is gonna look different,” said Lt. Col. John Fuccello, 354th Operations Group Detachment 1 director of operations. “We’re going to have different international participation. So we’ll do some different scenarios to allow us to integrate effectively.”

Substantial precautions were in place this year to keep communities and service members safe, Eads said.

“Our focus is to protect our service members and their families, prevent the spread of COVID-19 to U.S. forces, local residents, allies, or partners, and ensure our warfighting readiness in order to accomplish assigned missions,” Eads said. “In coordination with military medical personnel and public health personnel, every aspect of Red Flag-Alaska has been analyzed to ensure the appropriate mitigation measures are taken against COVID-19.”

A Japanese Air Self Defense Force F-15J Eagle proceeds to refuel from a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender assigned to the 9th Air Refueling Squadron over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 23, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo / Senior Airman Emily Farnsworth)

A Japanese Air Self Defense Force F-15J Eagle proceeds to refuel from a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender assigned to the 9th Air Refueling Squadron over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, June 23, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo / Senior Airman Emily Farnsworth)

It was productive to have the exercise at full strength again, Fuccello said.

“It was good we knocked out a lot, because we had two of our exercises cancelled from last year because of COVID and two of them were slightly paired down,” Fuccello said. “We had a lot of great lessons learned and a lot of the young crews learned a lot of valuable lessons so in the end it was a win.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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