Six A-29 aircraft of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) flew from Brazil to the U.S. West Coast to participate in aerial exercise Green Flag-West. The aircraft, known as Super Tucanos, flew twice a day during the May 31-June 14 exercise departing from Nellis Air Force Base, just 15 miles away from the famous Las Vegas Strip. The destination was Fort Irwin, in the Mojave Desert, California, where a correlated exercise was held simultaneously.
Through Green Flag, Brazil aimed to train and update the doctrine of FAB service members through operational and experience exchange with the air forces of other countries. FAB also sought to update tactics, techniques, processes, and doctrine in joint solo-air missions, according to Brazilian Air Force Major João Paulo Gomez Lima da Silva, commander of the Brazilian mission in the U.S. During the exercise, Super Tucano Brazilian pilots carried out Close Air Support missions, while service members of the Brazilian Airborne Rescue Squadron carried out Forward Air Control missions to support U.S. Army forces at Fort Irwin.
This was the first time that the A-29 aircraft participated in a combined exercise outside Brazil. “We did a lot of preparation and coordination; we have been working hard on getting the Brazilians here for well over a year, but it was all worth it. The results are excellent,” said U.S. Air Force Major Kelsey Finley, an Air Forces Southern officer dedicated to matters related to Brazil. This was the first time FAB participated in Green Flag. “It’s important to highlight that after World War II, this was Brazil’s first opportunity to participate in combined training with USAF [U.S. Air Force] in missions to support U.S. Army troops,” said Maj. João.
The Super Tucanos conducted Close Air Support, assisting U.S. Army troops on the ground to contain and neutralize threats that could prevent battlefront advances. “Nowadays this is not that uncommon, as this mission is often carried out by the A-10. The FAB’s A-29 squadrons already served this purpose, however we are in the process of updating the doctrine for current scenarios and modernizing the equipment,” the Brazilian officer said.
Green Flag is a realistic integration training of air-ground combat involving U.S. and partner nations’ air forces. The exercise, primarily carried out jointly with the U.S. Army Combat Training Center at Fort Irwin, is conducted several times a year. The U.S. Air Force Warfare Center and Nellis Air Force Base, through the 549th Combat Training Squadron (CTS 549th) oversee the joint air support training exercise.
During the exercise, members of the Green Flag team guide, monitor, and instruct visiting units in air operations in support of ground forces. To assist in this effort, CTS 549th maintains a group of specialists qualified in air-ground missions who fly with visiting squadrons during most of the exercises. When troops aren’t actively flying, they supervise and guarantee a high level of integration between air and ground forces. On average, 75,000 service members from the U.S. military, including the National Guard and reservists, participate in two Green Flag exercises each year, adding to more than 6,000 flight hours and using about 700 tons of explosives. Air forces from other countries participate in one or more similar coalition exercises in the United States. “Green Flag occurs several times a year. Because this is the first contact, we need to process all acquired knowledge, update our Close Air Support doctrine, then evaluate conditions for new participation,” said Maj. João, about FAB’s future participation in the exercise.
For the exercise, Brazil sent 70 service members — most are members of the squadrons that fly FAB’s A-29. Units of the Brazilian Airborne Rescue Squadron participated as the Joint Terminal Attack Controller, regulating aircraft for attacks in support of ground forces. “The Brazilians made a significant contribution, showing that it’s possible for an aircraft such as the A-29 to fulfill these kinds of missions in a complex scenario, generating synergy between low/medium performance aircraft and troops on the ground,” said Maj. João.