by Senior Airman Sergio A. Gamboa
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
12/11/2015 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Checkered
Flag 16-1, a large-force exercise which gives a large number of legacy
and fifth-generation aircraft the chance to practice combat training
together, started Dec. 10 at Tyndall.
This week-and-a-half long exercise focuses on the involvement of the
F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II's and legacy aircraft training in a
large-force exercise to enhance combat air power capabilities.
"This exercise is a building block," said Col. Joseph Kunkel, 325th
Fighter Wing vice commander and Checkered Flag commander. "We are at the
very beginning of the integration of F-22s, F-35s and fourth-generation
aircraft. What this does is lead us to the next step and that next step
is to be extremely lethal in combat."
F-22s, T-38 Talons and QF-16 aerial targets from Tyndall; F-35s, an
F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15Cs Eagles and F-16 Falcons from Eglin AFB, Fla.;
F-16s from Shaw AFB, S.C.; B-52s from Barksdale AFB, La.; an E-3
Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) from Tinker AFB, Okla.; and
F-16s from Eielson AFB, Ak. are supporting the exercise.
"It is amazing, and it warms my heart to see the number of airplanes.
The fact that we are going to be able to integrate with them on a daily
basis is incredible," said Kunkel.
Getting all the different aircraft to participate in this large-scale exercise was not easy.
A key challenge was successfully communicating to bring all that combat air power together at the same time, he said.
"The Air Force makes things like this look real easy, but the level of
integration we are seeing here is really complex and requires years of
training from a number of different people," said Kunkel. "There is
going to be a lot of close coordination between
fourth-and-fifth-generation aircraft during this exercise, and what you
are seeing is the fulfillment of years of work."
Fifth-generation aircraft, like the F-35 and F-22, have stealth
capabilities, advanced avionics, communication and sensory capabilities
that augment the capabilities of fourth-generation aircraft, and the
exercise also boasts the capabilities of the Airmen involved.
"The biggest way that Checkered Flag helps the Airmen is through
exposure," said Lt. Col. Matthew Bradley, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron
commander. "If you're an F-16 fighter pilot at Shaw, you don't see
F-35s, F-22s, B-52s or the E-3 often. So to bring them all together to
one place and mission plan together increases everybody's capabilities."
Bradley's role in the exercise is mixing tenses to co-host, alongside
with the 325th Fighter Wing, the exercise that coincided with a Weapons
System Evaluation Program in order to save the Air Force money.
"The biggest thing I am looking forward to is how the F-35 enhances the
other aircraft and Airmen's capabilities," added Bradley. "We have yet
to see the F-35 really interact with this many aircraft. So, the biggest
lessons learned are: what it brings to the fight and how it increases
everyone else's combat capability."
This combination of fourth-and-fifth-generation aircraft abilities
during Checkered Flag brings better situational awareness to the Air
"This exercise provides a lot of things for the Air Force. One of them
is a proof of concept that we can integrate a large number of aircraft
to include F-22s, F-35s and fourth-generation aircraft," said Kunkel.
"It also proves to the world that we have the capability of unrivaled
combat air power."