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2,000+ Air Force, Navy personnel, 70 fighter jets kick off air-to-air combat training with live missiles in Florida

Checkered Flag 21-2 Missile Loads (U.S. Air Force Photo by Brad Sturk)

Tyndall Air Force Base is hosting more than 2,000 personnel and more than 70 fighter jets from all over the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy for Checkered Flag training.

Checkered Flag is one of the largest air-to-air combat simulation exercises the Department of Defense has to offer. Pilots get real-life training by shooting live missiles at targets.

Checkered Flag started last week and will run through Friday. Tyndall hosts Checkered Flag twice a year, with the other one usually scheduled in November.

Checkered Flag 21-2 Missile Loads (U.S. Air Force Photo by Brad Sturk)

Tyndall resembled the Air Force base of old on Friday with the number of jets that were on the flight line. Tyndall has been in rebuild mode since it was devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018. There were F-18E Super Hornets, F-22 Raptors, F-15E Strike Eagles and the F-35A Lightnings, which will land at Tyndall with three squadrons in 2023.

One of the key parts of Checkered Flag, in addition to making sure the military remains dominant in air-to-air combat, is to develop relationships among different branches of the military. The Navy is getting a firsthand look at how the Air Force conducts its training and the Air Force is learning a thing or two from the Navy.

“A big part of it is building relationships now before we go on deployment and you kind of understand the capabilities and limitations of what you bring to the fight,” said Cmdr. Brian Broadwater, commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 103 from Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. “When we do find ourselves deployed in the future, we kind of have those relationships built.”

Checkered Flag 21-2 Missile Loads (U.S. Air Force Photo by Brad Sturk)

Tyndall is a popular destination for large exercises like Checkered Flag because of the layout of the base. It’s one of the few Air Force bases that doesn’t cross civilian air space and the Gulf Range Complex makes a great spot to do live-fire missile shoots.

Lt. Col. David Delmage, commander of the 27th Fighter Squadron from Langley Air Force Base, said there are several things he likes about the exercise and the purpose it serves. What stands out is looking down the flight line and seeing all the jets lined up ready to take off.

Checkered Flag 21-2 Missile Loads (U.S. Air Force Photo by Brad Sturk)

“It’s awesome to see all the different air frames and each of those air frames come with tens if not hundreds of personnel all across the country,” Delmage said.

He said that personnel from different bases learn different things from one another, whether it’s tactical or basic ways to conduct their business.

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