Air Force Pilots Face the "Enemy" During Red Flag Exercises - 8 News NOW

Air Force Pilots Face the "Enemy" During Red Flag Exercises

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LAS VEGAS -- The Nevada skies are a simulated-war zone as the U.S. Air Force and allied forces battle in Red Flag training exercises.

More than a hundred aircraft are taking off and landing twice a day at Nellis Air Force Base, some staying in the air for up to five hours.

After more than 40 Red Flag missions, Major Ryan Howland knows how to make the fight feel real.

He is a reservist and one of just a few dozen airmen on the red team, which pretend to be the enemy.

His goal is to take his F-16 through more than 100 U.S. and allied aircraft on the blue team and destroy their home base.

"We learn how our adversary countries might think, how their platforms work, and how we expect them to act," Maj. Howland said.

The team of pilots learn the strategy and tactics of the enemy and put the training of allied and U.S. forces to the test.

Howland says he and seven other reservists are at Nellis Air Force Base to provide some continuity to the mash up of forces that include pilots from Australia and Great Britain.

His team has been here before.

"So, in the pilot world, you typically see guys on station or at a given base for two and a half or three years. A reservist may be here for 10 years," Maj. Howland said.

The massive training area covers more than 12,000 square miles of air space, almost 3 million acres of land and includes more than 1,900 possible targets.

"To ensure that we are presenting a picture to our coalition forces as realistic as can be expected," Maj. Howland said.

It is a mission Howland takes pride in.

"We get to see a wide variety of the forces that we are going to send to war and we get to see them come in a little wet behind the ears and leave prepared to go protect our country," he said.

It is why he brings the fight-every time.

Red Flag ends on Feb. 14 but will pick up again in March. The exercises are done three times a year.

The pilots say there is nothing else in the world close to the size and scope of the combat training going on at Nellis Air Force Base.

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