More than 28,000 military personnel are involved in a mock war raging this week at the Utah Test and Training Range near Wendover. The battle simulates conditions in a desert nation and is designed to train crews for possible action in the Middle East.
The exercise, called Gallant Eagle '88, started Tuesday and runs through Wednesday. Aircraft from bases across the country are involved, some deploying temporarily to Hill Air Force Base, and others flying in for their missions.Several Utah units are involved, with the two fighter wings at Hill acting as the "bad guys" - the Red Force. The 388th and 419th tactical fighter wings are trying to fend off the Blue Force, defending designated targets from as many as eight attacks a day.
Two Utah Air National Guard units are also participating, the 151st Air Refueling Group and the 299th Range Control Squadron. The 151st is flying two of the five KC-135 air refueling tankers being used.
The 299th, a radar unit, has people on both sides of the fence and some straddling it. Some are operating as Red forces, tracking the attackers and supplying information to the defending F-16s.
Others are designated as Blue units, helping the attackers slip past the waiting fighters and ground-based surface-to-air missile units, guiding them over the rough West Desert terrain.
And some of the 299th radar operators - known as "scope dopes" to their colleagues - are neutral. These White units are looking at the larger picture and coordinating with airport air traffic controllers to keep the military and civilian aircraft untangled.
In all, more than 28,000 military personnel from the Air Force, Navy, and Marines are involved. And, according to one military official involved, the Middle East scenario is made even more realistic with the involvement of a group of Israeli pilots flying Kafir fighters.
The exercise is using nearly every aircraft in the U.S. inventory, ranging from fighters and bombers to tankers and reconnaissance aircraft.
Each battle exercise tests a different scenario, according to Col. John Sansom, commander of the 299th. Different tactics are used and the balance of power is changed often, from the defenders being outnumbered to having air superiority.
The Red Forces, Hill's 388th and 419th, have been reinforced by Air Force units from other bases flying F-15s and Marine pilots in F-21 Kafirs.
The attacking Blue Forces, in addition to the standard F-15s and F-16s, are throwing nearly every type of aircraft used by the military at the Reds: F-111s, ground-hugging fighter-bombers; EF-111s, used for electronic counter warfare; B-52 bombers; SR-71 and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft; RC-135, KC-135, and KC-10 refueling tankers; and the Navy's A-7, F-18, and F-4 fighters.
The defending Red Force is based at Hill, with the Blue Force attacking from bases throughout the West and Southwest, including Beale AFB, Calif.; Nellis AFB, Nev.; Luke AFB, Ariz.; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; George AFB, Calif.; Kirtland AFB, N.M.; Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, Ariz.; and Lemore Naval Air Station, Calif.