RAF Typhoon Squadron Arrives at Red Flag


A squadron of Royal Air Force Typhoon multi-role fighters has arrived on schedule at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, having flown in formation via the Azores and Bermuda, to take part in the Red Flag exercise which commences on 26 January and runs for three weeks.

After a journey of 6,000 miles from RAF Lossiemouth in northern Scotland to the western USA, the pilots and an advance party of ground crew from 1(Fighter) Squadron will now commence their final preparations for Exercise Red Flag, a large scale and complex air warfare exercise.

The exercise is an important milestone in the continued development of the Typhoon in the swing role, namely the ability to undertake air-air and air-ground missions in a single sortie.

Wing Commander Mike Sutton is Officer Commanding 1(F) Sqn. He said: “The Typhoon is an agile fighter aircraft optimised not optimised to fly across the Atlantic in one hope so we have to air-air refuel to get across that distance. The planning process for this is quite complicated because we need to ensure that we’re not relying on successful air-air refuelling in case we have an aircraft problem such as a probe not working. So what we have to do is keep the aircraft topped up with fuel and we have to fly close to diversion airfields all the way.

“So we look very closely at the routes, very closely at the weather across those diversion airfields and we plan accordingly so that we can always, in the worst possible case, divert to a suitable airfield.

“The other thing we’re playing with is the decisions about the sea state and the weather across the Atlantic. With the swell and the wave height we have to be very careful about exactly where we fly. We try to minimise legs over extremely choppy sea just in case the absolute worse happens and we have to eject from the Typhoon.”

The long range deployment of 1(F) Squadron was supported by Voyager air-air refuelling tanker from 10 and 101 Squadrons based at RAF Brize Norton which provided fuel and transported ground crew and essential equipment.

Wg Cdr Sutton said: “Air-air refuelling is an inherently safe business but we are physically touching other aircraft multiple times at 300 miles per hour across the middle of the Atlantic, so when that’s happen it’s a fairly focussed time for all the crew involved. Of course the Typhoon doesn’t have very good facilities on board either so by the time you climb out after eight hours it’s normally bit of a relief.

“The trail itself is invaluable training. We’re on high readiness to deploy on contingency operations at a moment’s notice across the globe and so eve just the process of flying 10 aeroplanes in formation half way round the world is extremely useful. At the far end we have exercise Red Flag which is the premier training opportunity in the world. We’ve had really good work up as a squadron, we’re ready for this and we’re looking forward to it.”
During the course of the next fortnight RAF pilots will begin the detailed preparations for the exercise which includes familiarising themselves with local air traffic control procedures and flying with US Air Force units over the vast Nellis training range. They will be joined in the USA in due course by other RAF units, part of the RAF’s commitment to train to its personnel in the conduct of deployed operations in the most complex and challenging of environments.


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