Before being sent into combat, pilots and their crews undergo final training. Experience this extraordinary event as you follow pilot John Stratton through the desert of Nevada.
My grandfather was a fighter pilot who flew the F4u Corsair in World War two. He was awarded many medals and I wanted to be a fighter pilot like him.
[01:54] – A young guy at a flight school flying the most powerful fighter ever built was nervous about his first red flag exercise.
[04:21] – They call it red flag. We are gathered here today with pilots and crews from around the world to demonstrate the best fighter aircraft in the world.
[05:25] – The first morning of Red Flag, the Nellis flight line prepares to launch an enormous international armada of aircraft. It will include 22 F-15 eagles, eight German tornadoes, and the multi-role F-18 Hornet.
[08:40] – Red Flag provides pilots with their first 10 combat missions, which are more challenging than war itself.
[09:17] – The ghostly B2 heavy bomber floats toward the battlefield, followed by stealth F-117s and a U2 sending intelligence to the A-wax surveillance aircraft. The A-wax crew uses inputs from space systems and radar to understand the battle situation.
[10:36] – The bad guys fly 12 highly maneuverable F-16s, and Tractor is the Red Forces mission commander. He’s prepared them for the real thing, but Red Flag is their first taste of an air battle on a massive scale.
[12:03] – As planes are hit and declared dead, they turn white on the nexus screen, and the good guys must disengage and return to base. The aggressors get to regenerate and return to the fight.
Top Gun Operation Red Flag
[15:40] – Red Flag is not a contest or a competition. The commanders walk a fine line in order to save lives, and eight people nearly lost their lives today due to a pilot’s failure to communicate a change in flight path.
[17:23] – Surface-to-air missiles fired from every conceivable platform have proliferated by the millions worldwide. The threat center, which is equipped entirely with enemy weapons, is based on the same principle used in science museums.
[18:34] – A pilot and his gunner search for pebbles blown onto the runway by the desert wind at 5am each day. They are flying 600 miles per hour under the radar, hugging the rocks.
[20:18] – An F-15 squadron searches for potential targets in enemy territory. The pilot in front must lose ground quickly in order to get behind the aggressor, and must also watch their back sound.
The difference between Red Flag and Top Gun
[25:01] – Pilots are often required to refuel their aircraft simply to make it back to base, and if they can’t take on fuel in real combat, they risk being captured. Refueling is one of the most challenging skills to master.
[27:25] – My grandfather told me stories about the machine gun that jammed the gas tank, about the parachutes they didn’t always have time to put on, and about the young enemy pilots.
[29:13] – A F-15s engine takes 22 hours to make, and the mechanics and ground crews must work even harder during combat.
[29:47] – Today is the halfway point at Red Flag, and the mission today is not planned. The enemy is doing everything they can to capture the pilot, and you have nothing except what you would normally carry in the aircraft’s ejection seat.
[32:40] – The air boss calls in slow-flying A-10s to eliminate enemy choppers that are moving in to pick up the downed pilot. The search and rescue team is prepared to risk their lives for someone they don’t even know.
[35:46] – Aircrews have died on the runway, while bringing their battle-damaged aircraft home. The Red Flag aircrews are trained to perform as would be expected in a combat environment, but must work quickly and with great care.
[38:51] – The enemy is bringing everything forward that they can to fortify their frontline forces. We will give them everything we’ve got.
[39:17] – The vast majority of flights are undertaken by transport and tanker aircraft. Flight Roger experienced his first live orders at Red Flag.
[42:39] – I thought Red Flag was a chance to prove myself, but it became more about pulling off a good mission and becoming part of something bigger than myself. I made friends with pilots and crews from all over the states and around the world.