142nd FW Guardsmen participate in Checkered Flag 2019

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Steph Sawyer
  • 142nd Fighter Wing/Public Affairs

Approximately 150 Citizen Airmen from the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, Oregon traveled to Tyndall AFB, Florida to participate in a two-week-long, joint-service exercise known as Checkered Flag.

The exercise included several airframes from various Air Force and Navy installations, working together to meet combat readiness requirements. The focus of Checkered Flag is to enable the execution of complex, and primarily defensive, counter air and fighter integration.

In these air-to-air combat simulations, pilots represent either red air (the threat or opposition) or blue air. Red air pilots imitate aircraft from other countries while blue air pilots implement counter measures.

Aside from enabling pilots to meet Air Force mandated annual requirements, multi-airframe exercises like Checkered Flag present pilots with the opportunity to participate in intricate and demanding combat representative experiences.

Lt. Col. Jarrod Aranda, Director of Operations for the 123rd Fighter Squadron at Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon, says that the training experience offered at exercises like Checkered Flag is invaluable.

“We have the ability to expose guys to much more complex training scenarios here that we just can’t get back home because of the limited number of lines [sorties] that we’re able to generate,” says Aranda.  

Training scenarios at home station are typically two blue vs. four red, whereas at exercises like Checkered Flag, scenarios will typically be played out with 30-40 blue vs 40 red.

But while quantity is undeniably important in generating challenging training situations for pilots, the variety of aircraft plays a significant role as well. Working with multiple airframes allows pilots to learn about other platform’s capabilities and how to counter different aircraft.

“Each MDS [Mission-Design Series] has its own specific capabilities and back home we’re flying with just [F-15] C models,” says Aranda. “But to fly with the F-22, a stealth aircraft out here, and to fly with the Strike Eagle and the vipers [both] with air-to-ground capability, there’s pretty good cross-talk on how each of us executes air-to-air.”

Tyndall AFB hosts multiple Checkered Flag events every year, facilitating imperative training opportunities for pilots across the branches of the U.S. Military.