News: 428th Fighter Squadron returns from Red Flag-Alaska 13-1
Story by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The 428th Fighter Squadron concluded the first Red Flag-Alaska exercise of the fiscal year Oct. 19, 2012, after two weeks of intense, air-combat training throughout the vast mountain ranges of the Yukon River Valley near Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
Red Flag-Alaska provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close-air support and large-force employment training in a simulated combat environment. This gives both aircrews and ground crews of participating units continuous training throughout the entire exercise.
The 428th FS "Buccaneers" are stationed at MHAFB as part of a unique, long-term partnership with the Republic of Singapore Air Force. The U.S.-flagged 428th FS is dedicated solely to the training of Singaporean F-15SG aircrews. The combined effort on this program helps ensure a strong U.S.-Singapore relationship.
"I'm continually impressed with the professionalism and pride of our RSAF partners," said Lt. Col. Michael Quintini, 428th FS commander. "More importantly, I'm incredibly proud of the teamwork exhibited between our USAF, RSAF, and civilian contractor personnel. The Buccaneers performed exceptionally throughout the exercise."
During RF-A 13-1, crews worked between 10 and 12 hours a day during the regular work week as well as some weekends in order to accomplish the mission.
"Safety was always our primary concern during shifts throughout the entirety of the exercise," said Republic of Singapore ME4 Eng Soon Lee, maintenance chief. "Our maintenance professionals were able to fulfill the mission requirements in a safe and professional manner."
After ground crew efforts to ensure all aircraft were prepped and ready for take-off, aircrews took control and piloted multiple missions.
"Red Flag is constructed to challenge our aircrew and scenarios are developed to provide maximum threat training to all participants," said Quintini. "Our initial estimates put us at a 9:1 kill ratio, that is, we eliminated nine enemy aircraft for every loss of our own. It's difficult to obtain air superiority when you're outnumbered 12 to 4 and opposition forces are able to 'regenerate' constantly. The trick is managing your assets for maximum survivability."
Pilots practiced intense aerial maneuvers at extremely high speeds in unfamiliar air space, amongst other aircraft throughout the exercise.
"It's difficult to measure true performance at Red Flag," said Quintini. "For example, even if our aircrew did poorly on a particular mission due to the difficulty of the scenario, it's still a huge win for us since everyone gets a chance to learn and develop their skills. The intrinsic training value is really immeasurable because if you're not constantly critiquing your performance, you'll never learn, get better, or adapt."
Learning from past mistakes is an important lesson of RF-A 13-1, and the Buccaneers appreciated each opportunity to get better.
"Being able to participate in the exercise was a unique opportunity for personnel from the 428th FS because most people refer to us as an RSAF squadron, but we are much more," said Quintini. "We've created a tight team of USAF and RSAF personnel at Mountain Home Air Force Base who have been wonderfully successful throughout the last four years, and I'm very proud to be a part of that team."
Through all the adversity and maintenance issues, personnel from the 428th FS worked tirelessly together to ensure mission success.
"Our squadron excelled even on the bad days, by providing valuable mission lessons and learning points to our younger aircrew to carry forward to the next generation," said Quintini. "Another vital aspect of the exercise was vigilant aircraft upkeep performed by ground crew personnel."
Maintenance personnel incurred only minor maintenance issues throughout the two weeks of almost constant flying.
"There were no serious maintenance issues during the exercise," said Lee. "We went to Alaska expecting and being completely prepared for the cold and snow. As expected, the weather caused some routine acclimation issues for the aircraft, however we are always professionals and work as a team to ensure mission success."