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F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighters and F/A-18 Super Hornets Engage in Intensive War Training, Preparing for High-Stakes Scenarios

Each year, the U.S. Air Force hosts a two-week advanced aerial combat training exercise in Nevada and Alaska.

Exercise Red Flag was established nearly five decades ago to give military pilots a “real feel” of combat.

The latest iteration of this exercise occurred in Southern Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base last week. More than 100 airframes participated in the drills which were geared toward simulating longer-range maritime combat scenarios in the Pacific.

According to The Drive, this year’s Red Flag exercise was blended with the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier’s Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).

The collaboration between the two services highlights the broader training approach the U.S. is making in light of China’s increasingly belligerent behavior in the South China Sea.

Each Navy Carrier Strike Group uses COMPTUEX to rehearse movements before deploying to bring together the various battle group components into a sole functioning fighting entity.

Air Force Gen. Mark Kelly tweeted about the collaboration between the Navy and Air Force’s historically separate exercises this morning. While only the Navy’s EA-18G Growler electronic warfare jets had previously participated in Red Flag, this year additional airframes participated.

The exact details surrounding the carrier strike group have not been released. However, analysts believe a combination of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, Growlers, E-2D Hawkeyes, and MH-60 Seahawk helicopters were included.

F-35Cs and CMV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor airframes are also currently transitioning into the carrier air wing.

A brief overview of some of the participating airframes:

The F/A-18 Super Hornet

The F/A-18 Hornet was the first tactical airframe designed to perform both air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. Designed by McDonnell Douglas, the fighters can carry 16,000-pound thrust General Electric F404-400 engines and encompass full mission spectrum capabilities including reconnaissance, air superiority, close air support and other abilities. The Super Hornet variant is able to carry more fuel than its predecessors and feature a smaller radar cross-section, which makes it very difficult for enemy aircraft to detect.

 
The E-2D Hawkeye

Northrop Grumman’s E-2 Hawkeye is also a formidable airframe. The carrier-capable, tactical airborne early warning airframe was initially conceptualized more than six decades ago. As detailed by Naval Technology, the latest E-2D Advanced Hawkeye variant possesses a new radar system, multi-sensor integration and theatre missile defense capabilities.

 

Additional enhancements include: “True 360-degree radar coverage provides uncompromised all-weather tracking and situational awareness. Open architecture compliant, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS)-based hardware and software enables rapid, cost-wise technology refresh for consistent leading-edge mission tools. A true FORCEnet enabler – A force multiplier through network enabled capability, Advanced Hawkeye is the gateway to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael G. Mullen’s vision for a “1,000-ship navy.”

The F-22 Raptor

Other than the F-35 Lightening II, the F-22 Raptor is perhaps the most recognizable fifth-generation fighter on the planet. Since its introduction to the Air Force several decades ago, the Raptor’s unparalleled capabilities has wowed military officials and aviation buffs alike.

The fighter can reach speeds of Mach 2.4 and is able to do so without using an afterburner. Notably, the F-22’s tiny radar cross section makes it nearly impossible to detect, a critical capability when it comes to traditional dog fighting.