Warplanes: War Games with Expensive Toys


May 5, 2009: The ‘Red Flag’, as it has come to be known, is the largest aerial combat-military training exercise in the world. The expensive toys involved in these games are the jet fighters, bombers and spy planes, which certainly do not come cheap (many costing $50-100 million each). Red Flag war games are organized by the Air Forces of the United States through the Department of Defense, and it involves ally countries’ air force armies (Red Flag, www.harpoonhq.com). Though it can be taken as a game in the military forces, Red Flag War Games is much more than that, it is as a training exercise which comes very close to a realistic war since all the weapons of air and ground attack are deployed. 

The Red Flag War games training exercise is carried out at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada on an area covering about 6,000 squares miles, and was first organized in 1975. It has since been carried out between four to six times in a year, each session taking about six weeks. The Red Flag War games bring together pilots among other air crew from the United States Air Force and other United States Military branches, and air forces of friendly countries to engage in mock offensive attacks. Red Flag War Games are aimed at preparing the armies for real combat should there be a real threat.

The battles in the Red Flag War Games are organized such that there are two forces, with the friendly force putting on blue while the enemy force are in red. A mock combat takes places where live bombs and missiles are used. There is, however, a system on the ground that tracks the moves made by either of the forces for later analysis by the participants.  

It is not possible to train for actual combat without actually being on the ground and simulating an enemy force or target. The Red Flag War Games therefore provides seemingly very  real battle environment, where the pilots try real hard, under very realistic conditions, to win against the enemy. The air forces of the allied countries also get a chance to learn new techniques developed by the Americans. Apart from training the aircraft pilots, the Red Flag War Games is also generally designed to test command and control procedures and their combat readiness levels.

New possibilities in the battleground are also incorporated in the Red Flag War Games like jamming of the electronic aided navigation and other communication devices that are built into the planes. This is to prepare the pilot for the event that the systems are disabled by the enemy fighters in the actual battle.   -- Andy Dollinger 





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