TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The airspace and roadways surrounding Tyndall Air Force Base are busy as the installation moves full speed ahead into Checkered Flag 22-2, May 9-20, 2022.
Checkered Flag is one of the Department of Defense’s largest air-to-air exercises, designed to test and improve air combat capabilities and crucial support functions that directly support the nation’s Immediate Response Force.
“Checkered Flag’s real purpose is to prepare and support the Immediate Response Force; the nation’s on-call force,” said Mark Hayes, 325th Fighter Wing Checkered Flag 22-2 exercise director.
“The goal is to gather these forces that could [deploy worldwide as part of the next IRF] and have them train together as a team, integrating fourth- and fifth-generation capabilities, and learn from each other…to prepare for deployment taskings.”
U.S. Air Force fifth-generation fighter airframes represented in the exercise include the F-22 Raptor along with off-station participation of the F-35A Lightning II, while fourth-generation fighter aircraft will include F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-15C Eagles, and U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets.
Other aircraft such as tankers and joint command and control aircraft have critical roles to play in this exercise, as they would in any real-world contingency or deterrent show-of-force across the globe.
Tyndall’s large airspace provides all participants with a unique training opportunity.
“Portions of the Gulf Test and Training Range being used by Checkered Flag is 250-by-60 miles of airspace from Gulfport to Tampa, with almost no restrictions,” said Hayes.
“You can’t find a block of airspace like this anywhere in the U.S. to [employ] realistic tactics and scenarios.”
Approximately 11 Department of the Air Force units from across four major commands traveled to the panhandle to participate in the exercise along with the U.S. Navy and other mission-support partners.
Air Combat Command, the ultimate authority for the exercise, works with higher headquarters, departments, and other MAJCOMs to schedule and task units to participate in exercises that have an invested interest in Defensive Counter Air missions, referring to mission sets where the goal is to protect a position, area, or high-value airborne asset.
“Checkered Flag enables us to train like we fight, ensuring our force is mission capable and prepared to support the National Defense Strategy,” said Col. Greg Moseley, 325th Fighter Wing commander.
“What we do here equips the Joint force with the skills needed to excel in any environment, whether it’s here at home or downrange.”
The 325th FW both owns and hosts the exercise with units across the base working together to plan and execute.
“Tyndall’s active-duty mission and all the personnel brought on base for the exercise as both operations and support have the background and the knowledge needed to perpetuate the exercise by providing a good foundation to organize and lead,” said Hayes.
In addition, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, a tenant unit here, is hosting Weapons System Evaluation Program 22.08 in conjunction with Checkered Flag 22-2. Holding these exercises together enables the force to collaborate and channel efforts, increasing training value.
Checkered Flag is instrumental in ensuring the delivery of decisive combat airpower to combatant commanders worldwide, and people are what make it happen.
“The success of Checkered Flag rests with our 325th Fighter Wing Airmen,” said Moseley.
“Without them, this exercise would not be possible. I couldn’t be more proud of them and the part they play in training and projecting unrivaled combat.”
By Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs