Rain and cloud can’t keep Exercise Maple Flag 51 on the ground

MF51 - DAY 1 LAUNCH 11 JUN 18

It’s on! A Belgian F-16 fighter takes off for the first launch of Exercise Maple Flag 51 on Monday morning.
Photo: Cpl Manuela Berger, Wing Imaging

Jeff Gaye

Participants in Exercise Maple Flag 51 got their opening-day missions in on Monday, in spite of the cloudy, wet weather.

This year’s Maple Flag exercise is shorter than most years, but what it lacks in duration it will make up for with fighter-force intensity.
“This one is different, it’s more fighter-centric,” said Maj Alana Cadieux, Officer Commanding the Air Force Tactical Training Centre (AFTTC). “This is different from the last few years when there has been an integration of ground forces, and integration of transport and helicopters. This will be very much fast air.”

A lot of fighters means a lot of excitement and jet noise — “it began with the Belgian Air Component’s F-16s last Thursday. Actually it’s great to see,” Maj Cadieux said.

Each participating force brings its own training objectives, which are incorporated into the exercise scenarios. In addition to the tactical training, international participants gain the advantage of learning how the others operate. Maj Cadieux said the working relationships have a payoff in operational settings.

“You don’t build relationships over email,” she said. “It’s valuable to see everybody in person and to work in a condensed two-week period with them in this type of exercise format. It builds great relationships with countries.”

The RCAF is joined by fighters from the Royal Australian Air Force, the Belgian Air Component, The United States Navy and the United States Air Force. Top Aces, a civilian contractor, will have Alpha Jets on the exercise.

The NATO Airborne Warning and Control (AWACS) E-3 Sentinel aircraft will perform a control function, and RCAF Hercules and Polaris aircraft will provide air-to-air refuelling operations.

The United States Marine Corps will participate as ground control intercept controllers.

Next week approximately 30 personnel from half a dozen other countries will observe the exercise.

Maj Cadieux said many of the Maple Flag participants are staying in town, so Cold Lake will enjoy an international flavour for the duration of the exercise.

“They’ll see a lot of our participants downtown, which is wonderful,” she said. “You’ll see people walking around with different coloured uniforms and different accents. I’m excited for Cold Lake to host these international participants.”

“This is the first time to Canada for lots of them, so we’ll be the Canadian face they see.”


Photo: Cpl Manuela Berger, Wing Imaging


A US Navy EA-18G Growler with the Electronic Attack Squadron 134 from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.
Photo: Cpl Manuela Berger, Wing Imaging


The NATO E-3 Sentinel AWACS.
Photo: Cpl Manuela Berger, Wing Imaging

MF 51- BAF day 1 - 11/06/18

A technician from the Belgian Air Component guides an F-16 to the runway for the first launch of Exercise Maple Flag 51.
Photo: OS Erica Seymour, Wing Imaging