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January 2010

The Sqn deployed to Las Vegas, Nevada to participate in Ex RED FLAG 10-2 (RF) at Nellis AFB. The aim of the exercise was to regenerate the Sqn’s capability to participate in Large Force Employment (LFE) and Composite Air Operations (COMAO) whilst consolidating Paveway IV with Sniper capability at low and medium levels using PLAN mode. The Exercise lead-in was far from ideal as the Sqn returned from Christmas leave on 4 Jan to find the airfield under a thick blanket of snow, exacerbated by the fact that the Stn no longer had a snow-clearing capability. As the cold weather persisted, flying was cancelled for 2 weeks meaning that none of the pre-RF work-ups were completed. The Boss determined that all pilots were required to complete 2 sims, alongside robust ‘emergency drills’ and specific RED FLAG groundschool, in order to mitigate the lack of flying prior to departure. Eventually, a combination of a revamped old snow-plough and Clearway (anti-freeze) succeeded in clearing a section of the runway and, after much contingency planning and a 24hr delay due to high winds in the Azores, 8 jets departed Cottesmore en-route to the USA on Sat 16 Jan. The trail split in Lajes, Azores due to the unserviceability of one Harrier (fuel tank resistor problem) with 5 jets reaching Nellis on 20 Jan via Bermuda and Memphis, and the remaining 3 arriving a day later via St Johns in Canada and Washington Dulles.

The pictures show a GR9 on a refueling stop over at Larjes, Azores and a pair of jets (flown by JJ and OCB) tanking en route to Washington behind a VC10. ? The late arrival of the jets and a day of poor weather at Nellis resulted in insufficient time to complete all the familiarisation flights before the start of RF. Consequently the Sqn executed a stepped approach to the Ex during week one. All pilots flew their first 2 sorties as ‘non evading’, and the night team flew at 500ft agl until comfortable with the environment. No OLF was flown until the last day of week one, and even then it was only during the benign parts of the sortie and all evasion was flown above 250 ft. Despite the lack of pre-Ex flying, the first week of the ex was a success. Only six sorties were lost to aircraft unserviceability, meaning each pilot flew a minimum of 2 sorties.