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Pakistani F-16s at Red Flag and Green Flag Exercises

Six Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16C/D Block-52+ are taking part in Red Flag, which is termed as the “U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise.” In tandem, the PAF’s F-16s – which belong to the No. 5 squadron based out of Shahbaz Air Base in Sindh – will also participate in Green Flag, an exercise for air-to-ground mission training (e.g. precision-guided strikes) (The Aviationist). The current Red Flag exercise is taking place during 11-29 July, while Green Flag is scheduled for 23 July to 12 August.

Comment and Analysis

Large-scale exercises such as Red Flag – as well as Maple Flag (Canada) and Anatolian Eagle (Turkey) – aim to offer participants simulated wartime experience. While the actual reality of a real-world war cannot be controlled for in an exercise, certain conditions, such as the pressure induced on pilots, ground crew and aircraft from increased sortie rates, can be implemented in an exercise.

The rationale for this approach is to acclimate air warfare personnel with at least some measure of experience in the work required to smoothly operate complex aircraft under severe pressure, and that too against a wide range of missions, including those involving air-to-air warfare (i.e. Dissimilar Air Combat Training or DACT). By generating this experience through an exercise, participating forces are able to pick-up an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, especially in terms of maintenance efficiency or their pilots’ abilities to cope with stress, fatigue and less predictable scenarios.

In turn, lessons from these air exercises are then fed back into both training as well as existing operational procedures, which in turn results in wider organizational improvement. This is basically the way a Red Flag (or Green Flag) participant would approach the exercise, including the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

This is the PAF’s second time at Red Flag, but it is the first time the PAF’s F-16C/D Block-52+ have flown for an overseas exercise. It is not known exactly what kinds of exercises the PAF will be engaging in, though it might prefer using Red Flag’s DACT maneuvers as an opportunity to gain exposure to current (and ideally emerging) air warfare technology and doctrine. It will almost certainly be participating in the air-to-ground element, and will be sure to offer its experience from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to the other participants.

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  • by SP
    Posted July 27, 2016 3:52 am 0Likes

    The exercises are useful but these are used mainly to assess the capability of different countries like Pakistan while the hosts dont reveal all their secrets and keep some tricks up their sleeves. These interactions are also used to buy influence and as a pr exercise, these exercises could also be used to recruit agents or to obtain information. Pakistan military should be aware of dangers of sending officers on training courses in the west.

  • by sufi
    Posted July 27, 2016 6:47 am 0Likes

    if turkey’s ( a NATO member ) allegations against US are true you can well imagine what US can do against countries like pakistan … dont need a high bid to attract our citizens.

  • by Mohsin E.
    Posted July 27, 2016 6:50 am 0Likes

    No one reveals any secrets in these exercises. If anything, the US is the most exposed during Red Flag. The USAF pilots complained that the Rafales are just there to spy on the Raptor’s electronic signature, without actually doing anything useful lol. The Indians Flankers didn’t even turn on their radar when they were there due to security (they did get utterly destroyed by the Vipers though in dog fights lol.) Also, being able to fly against Raptors/Eurofighters etc. is much more of an opportunity for the PAF then it is for the USAF, since they already built the aircraft we fly, while we have very little idea of 5th gen capabilities.

  • by bill
    Posted July 27, 2016 10:59 am 0Likes

    Dear Sir, the above mentioned exercises shall certainly further enhance capabilities of our fighter pilots having most modern fighter jets of PAF.

  • by bill
    Posted July 27, 2016 11:07 am 0Likes

    Dear Sir, I am afraid facts do not support your arguments if considered specifically in case of PAF pilots, as pilots chosen are already serving on Shahbaz airbase which was and still is under influence of USA. They already have abundant agents in Pakistan in all sectors, as facts show clear evidence in case of Usama operation where our former defense Minister Ch Ahmed Mukhtar confessed that many officials had the knowledge of attack before time.
    They do not require to earn bad name by making attempts to catch these fighter pilots as I can bet that they already know what these pilots have as air base and especially block 52+ F16s are already under strict observation of US staff present there.

  • by Bilal Khan - Quwa
    Posted July 27, 2016 1:40 pm 0Likes

    The PAF was scheduled to participate in the exercise a few years ago, but I don’t think we’ll see our fighters at Red Flag anytime soon moving forward. The recent F-16 FMF debacle has evidently not gone well in the PAF and *especially* in the public (among those who are aware – e.g. on this very website).

  • by Mohsin E.
    Posted July 27, 2016 8:20 pm 0Likes

    Dude, do you realize there are American personnel living WITHIN our airbases because of these Vipers? And you’re worried about our Viper pilots going State side for Red Flag? And don’t worry, I’m sure the PAF is aware of said ‘dangers.’

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