There’s a whole lot of man-made thunder coming for folks in the north Las Vegas Valley.
Military aircraft taking off and landing at Nellis Air Force Base will increase noise levels for residents around the base as fighter jets and support planes from the United States and partner nations take to the skies for Red Flag air combat training exercises beginning in late January.
The first Red Flag exercise runs from Jan. 27 to Feb. 14, and the second one is scheduled for March 3-14, according to a Nellis news release. More than 125 aircraft are scheduled to depart Nellis twice a day with each wave remaining in flight for up to five hours.
A third Red Flag exercise this year is being planned for July 14-25, but the one scheduled for July last year was canceled after budget cutbacks in the wake of the sequester law.
Approval of a bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill which includes defense financing that congressional negotiators released late Monday will avoid last year’s budget battles that canned the July 2013 Red Flag as well as a graduate-level Weapons School for pilots and part of the Thunderbirds air demonstration team’s season.
The massive spending bill that will pay for government operations through October also averts spending cuts that threatened production of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, some of which are being tested at Nellis.
Red Flag funding accounts for a comparatively small portion of the overall spending bill. The exercises typically cost $20 million to $60 million to fly friendly and would-be enemy aggressor aircraft, fire missiles, cannons and drop bombs.
Red Flag exercises, run by the 414th Combat Training Squadron, take place north of Las Vegas at the Nevada Test and Training Range, the Air Force’s premier military training grounds with more than 15,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land. The sprawling range includes 1,900 possible targets and a simulated enemy force.
Spearheaded by Gen. Robert Dixon, who commanded the Tactical Air Command, Red Flag was established in 1975 for pilots to hone their skills and reverse the declining air-to-air kill ratio trend that had fallen from about 10-to-1 during the Korean War to less than 2-to-1 during the Vietnam War.
Since its inception, airmen from 28 foreign countries have flown in the exercise, and several others have participated as observers. More than 440,000 U.S. military personnel, including 145,000 air crew members, have racked up 385,000 sorties and more than 660,000 hours of flying time, according to a Nellis fact sheet.
Red Flag training that begins Jan. 27 will involve aircraft from 19 U.S. military units in addition to fighter jets from the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom.
The Red Flag exercise in March will include aircraft from 13 U.S. units with those from the Belgian air force, the Royal Danish Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force.
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at email@example.com or 702-383-0308. Follow him on Twitter @KeithRogers2.