Red Flag – Alaska is a series of Pacific Air Forces field training exercises for the US Air Force. These exercises are commander directed and provide simulated combat situations for pilots in a safe spot, preparing them for real life combat situations.
The training exercises are held at Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Started in 1992 and known as Cope Thunder, it was renamed Red Flag to match the famous Red Flag training exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Up to 1,500 people are deployed between the two bases with nearly 100 aircraft. Training takes place at the Joint Pacific Range Complex over Alaska and parts of Canada with up to 70 jets in the air at one time.
Cope Thunder was started as a result of Air Force pilots having little combat experience prior to Operation Desert Strom. Red Flag – Alaska provides aircrews with vital missions, increasing their chances of survival in real life combat situations. The exercise is as realistic as it can be; for instance, pilots are presented with surface-to-air missile threats and have to respond quickly and correctly. Red Flag – Alaska provides the opportunity for airmen to see what their role in battle is, to see all the pieces working together, and to see how each crew partners with other crews to reach their goal.
Dates for the 2017 sessions have not been released at this time.