On the 14th March, the second 2012 Red Flag Media Day was held, under the direction of a new PAO. Represented by Robert Chapman and Mark Forest, AeroResource was along for the ride with many other photographers from around the world.

After the cancellation of Red Flag 12-1, 12-3 was actually the second of four scheduled Red Flag exercises for 2012. Responsibility for excecuting Red Flag lies with the 414th Combat Training Squadron, whose mission is to maximum combat effectiveness, readiness and survivability of the participating units – who vary with each exercise.

Attendees at Red Flag 12-3 would include:

Aircraft Unit Operator Base
F-15C Eagle 123rd Fighter Squadron USAF Portland IAP
F-15C Eagle 65th Aggressor Squadron USAF Nellis AFB
F-15E Strike Eagle 389th Fighter Squadron USAF Mountain Home AFB
F-16C Fighting Falcon 64th Aggressor Squadron USAF Nellis AFB
F-16CJ Fighting Falcon 179th Fighter Squadron USAF Duluth Falls ANGB
F-16CM Fighting Falcon 112th Fighter Squadron USAF Toledo Express Airport
F-22A Raptor 27th Fighter Squadron USAF Langley AFB
B-2A Spirit 13th Bomb Squadron USAF Whiteman AFB
E-3B 963rd Airbourne Command and Control Squadron USAF Tinker AFB
E-8C J-STARS 12th Airbourne Command and Control Squadron USAF Robins AFB
KC-135R Stratotanker 6th Air Mobility Wing USAF MacDill AFB
RC-135V Rivet Joint 38th Reconnaissance Squadron USAF Offutt AFB
MC-12W 489th Reconnaissance Squadron USAF Beale AFB
E-2D Hawkeye Air Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VX-1) USN NAS Paxutent River
EP-3E ARIES II Fleet Air Recon Squadron One (VQ-1) USN NAS Whitbey Island
EA-6B Prowler Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4 (VMAQ-4) USMC MCAS Cherry Point
F/A-18C Hornet Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122) USMC MCAS Beaufort
F/A-18A Hornet 75 Squadron RAAF RAAF Tindal
Tornado GR.4 2 Squadron RAF RAF Marham

Red Flag has been historically exceptional at Media relations, and regularly hold Media days to allow greater exposure to the invaluable training done at Nellis Air Force Base. 2012-03 was no exception, and what follows is an account of what it is like to experience such an
The day began at 11.30am at the Nellis AFB North Gate Visitors Centre with a quick introduction by the Public Affairs team once all the visiting organisations were present. Following a role call, the group boarded a  bus for the journey out to the flight line.

Whilst on the bus the restrictions were explained to everyone – there were to be no photographs from the rear of the B-2s and no photographs of the F-16CJs from the Minnesota ANG. There were also several F-16CJs from the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem AB operating with this unit so the same restrictions applied to these aircraft. Other than this, everything else could be photographed. The bus was driven half way down between both of the Nellis AFB runways (03/21 Left and Right, both over 1000ft in length). The photography area was shown to the photographers, who were then left to get themselves into a good position for the activities of the day.

By the time everyone was in position it was around midday – and it wasn’t long before a few based Aggressor aircraft depart past the photographers. The first returning aircraft from the morning sorties were Strike Eagles, from the 422nd TES. Shortly after 1pm the expansive flightlines at Nellis began to come alive with the sound of gas turbines spooling up. Within 30 minutes dozens of aircraft were taxiing and departing past the photographers vantage point, just past the 4000ft runway marker. Some 10 minutes later the Red Flag mission for March 14th had begun. It’s hard to imagine the noise created by so many afterburning engines – definitely something that has to be heard (or felt!) to be experienced. For almost 1 hour the aircraft were continually departing before there was finally a break in the movements.

Shortly before 3pm the first of the aircraft began to return from the mission. At first it was a pair of aircraft, then another batch, breaking from the overhead onto approach for the left or right runway and sometimes landing on both runways on parallel approaches. Within an hour the sky was filled with aircraft – pairs, four ships, “heavies” (such as the E-3) and one stage over 10 aircraft were scattered around the sky making ready for their approach and landing. Taking a moment to  stand back  and look at what the other photographers were doing made for an amusing – photographers running from left to right and vice versa trying to capture all the varied types landing (much as it is whenever you introduce aviation photographers to any collection of aircraft!).

Around 5pm the Public Affairs Officers accompanying the photographers started to round everybody up onto the bus. Just after starting to head to the bus, some particularly keen eyed individual spotted the distinctive shape of a pair of B-2 Spirits approaching the base. It would be no gross assumption to say that these were the aircraft that most had been anticipating – and it was strange how everyone’s walk to the bus seemed to get very slow….

Happily there was time to line back up along the runway ready for the touchdown shots – where else could you get pretty close to a B-2? The PAOs then positioned staff along the line and approached every photographer “No rear photos, remember no rear photos”. Presumedly this has to do with the stealth aspects of the propulsion exhausts – similar requests have been made at RIAT with the F-22A. A member of the 13th Bomb Squadron was also present walking along the line with a watchful on the photographers. With an aircraft this sophisticated, it’s no surprise the Air Force want to keep a close eye on it!

With the first B-2 landing and the second already on approach, the clicking of shutters would have been pretty constant! The lead aircraft waited for its wingmate at the bottom of the runway, before turning and backtracking past the photographers. The next few minutes can only describe be described as a photographers paradise, as the pair of Stealth Bombers trundled past the photographers at not more than a stone’s throw away.

With the excitement of the B-2 arrivals still palpable, it was again time to board the bus for the journey back to the base gate. If nothing else were to be gained from the day (which would be a pretty impressive feat), it was fantastic to have the opportunity to fraternise with such a wide range of aviation journalists and photographers.

Hats off to the Public Affairs team of Nellis AFB for a fantastic media day. Great organisation, fantastic access and more aircraft than you can shake a stick at, this was certainly another successful event for the PA Team. AeroResource wishes to convey our most sincere thanks to all involved in this event.