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Maintainers from Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 perform after-flight inspections and repairs to the squadron’s F/A-18D aircraft in preparation for exercise Red Flag-Alaska 16-2 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 4, 2016. Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 16-2 provides VMFA-314 and Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, based out of Marine Corps Station Iwakuni, Japan, the opportunity to train with joint and international units, increasing their combat skills by participating simulated combat situations in a realistic threat environment.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Donato Maffin

Squadrons arrive at Eielson AFB to participate in Red Flag-Alaska 16-2

8 Jun 2016 | Lance Cpl. Donato Maffin The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, and Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, traveled to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to participate in exercise Red Flag-Alaska 16-2, June 2-17, 2016. 

The exercise provides a realistic training environment and allows commanders to train for full spectrum engagements, ranging from individual skills of the pilots to complex, large-scale joint engagements.

“Red Flag-Alaska is a large force exercise where we train with U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army units,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Gregory A. McGuire, commanding officer of VMFA-314. “We also have some coalition forces here, the Republic of Singapore Air Force and the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, so it’s a big combined, joint, coalition exercise to work together with a very large number of aircraft to get to know each other; sharing tactics, techniques and procedures on how we would work together if we were called upon to serve in a big, kinetic fight.”

Red Flag-Alaska takes place inside the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which is the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. 

The range complex provides more than 67,000 square miles of airspace, including one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing 510 different types of targets and 45 threat simulators, both manned and unmanned. This capability supplies enough room and support for Red Flag-Alaska 16-2 to host a large amount of aircraft participation.

“The first Monday event is going to bring in the neighborhood of 70-plus aircraft airborne at one time,” said McGuire. “It is a lot of detailed planning and detailed organization between the elements, but it’s a great training opportunity for the squadron.”

The pilots will deal with issues such as language barriers and new aircraft in the sky as allies or playing as the enemy during the exercise.

“We just got here and did our coordination today,” said Capt. Steve Parks, pilot with VMFA-314. “It sounds like a great chance to work with the other units that are out here like the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and, of course, the U.S. Air Force, who is hosting the exercise.”

Training in a large scale exercise like Red Flag-Alaska 16-2 is a stepping stone for the pilots and maintenance crews of both squadrons to be more experienced and knowledgeable in large-scale combat operations. This allows the squadrons to be more effective in combat and reduces the risk of casualties.

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