Colombian Air Force to Participate in RED FLAG 2012

Colombian Air Force to Participate in RED FLAG 2012

first_img For the first time in Colombian history, the combat pilots of the Colombian Air Force will participate in Red Flag, the world’s most important military aviation competition, held at the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their participation represents the recognition of the professionalism and expertise that characterize the members of Latin America’s most operationally active Air Force. This unprecedented achievement will allow Colombia to demonstrate its capabilities in the field of combat aviation at an event attended only by the Air Forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries. Red Flag 2012 will test the skills and endurance in flight of pilots and aircraft, including the Kfir C-10 fighter-bomber, which will face complex simulated missions in a highly demanding environment. This fact merited the recognition of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who said in his speech at the Military ceremony commemorating the 92nd anniversary of the Air Force, “For the first time in history, the Air Force was invited to compete in this international competition, but it had to undergo testing first. (…) We’re going in to compete with the big boys, we’re going in through the front door, as a respected and respectable Air Force, as an Air Force admired by the entire hemisphere, as is made clear to me every time I travel to any country.” On the Road to Victory Everything began in February 2011, when the best pilots, maintenance technicians, and specialists in air safety, among other Air Force specialties, arrived at the 3rd Combat Air Command in Malambo, Atlántico department. There, they began exhausting days of training and checking the aircraft that would enable them to have the opportunity to compete in the big leagues of military aviation. “We start at 6 a.m. and finish late, but this effort is worth it, because we’ve seen the squadron’s progress,” said Major Edwin Vargas, commander of the 111th Combat Squadron, which flies Kfirs. All the activities were conducted in English, using a specialized aeronautical language that was evaluated by USAF personnel. Every day, starting at 5 a.m., there were inspections, mission reviews, combat and air-refueling exercises, and surveillance and threat-identification-assistance missions, all under the observation of evaluators, who paid attention above all to the criterion of safety. As the exercises progressed, so did the demands and the pressure, until the final evaluation day arrived, in November. Gathered at CACOM 3’s Awatawa Auditorium, the group of U.S. Air Force (USAF) personnel began evaluating each aspect. All the Colombian pilots and crew members waited for the overall evaluation, until one of the officers on the delegation expressed it in a special way: “Welcome to Las Vegas!” was the welcome phrase to the big leagues of military aviation. The members of the Colombian Air Force burst into loud applause in recognition of several months of demanding preparation and sacrifice, reflected in the satisfaction of a duty fulfilled. The pilots of the 111th Kfir Squadron, the Boeing KC 767 Jupiter, and the CACOM 1 Technical Group were especially involved in this exercise. “As a combat pilot, you always aspire to be among the best and command a plane like the Kfir, which is so strategic for the country; it will always be a source of pride, still more if you get to be part of such an important event,” said Major Óscar Sánchez Velandia, a Kfir pilot instructor. Lieutenant Colonel David Keessey, commander of the USAF Air Support Squadron, was one of the first officers to recognize the locals’ capabilities. “They’re the best combat pilots in Colombia and, I’m sure, in Latin America.” By Dialogo June 12, 2012last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *