he U.S. Air Force’s Red Flag large force employment (LFE) exercises are world-renowned for their scale and scope, and always involve a slew of different types of aircraft flying together. The last Red Flag event of the 2022 Fiscal Year, referred to as Red Flag 22-3, appears to have had some particularly notable participants last week. These came in the form of aircraft operating from the highly-secure Groom Lake test facility, better known as Area 51, using ‘MiG’ callsigns.
Joerg Arnu, an Area 51 researcher and webmaster of Dreamland Resort, a website dedicated to the history and goings-on at Area 51, first posted a collection of audio recordings he had made of radio chatter between these unusual Red Flag participants and air traffic controllers on July 13. This included communications from pilots using the callsigns MiG 5 and MiG 6, as well as MiG 1 and MiG 2. However, only MiG 5 and MiG 6 could be heard specifically while launching and recovering from Groom as part of the larger Red Flag day and evening missions. Arnu subsequently told The War Zone that he has now also overheard a third pilot, using the callsign MiG 7, during flights to and from Area 51.
“In over 20 years of monitoring Area 51 and Red Flag I have never heard aircraft from Area 51 participate in Red Flag. During this Flag’s (22-3) sorties I have repeatedly heard at least three aggressors (callsigns MIG 5, 6 and 7) launch from Area 51 and RTB [returned to base] there after the sortie,” Arnu said. “They checked in with Area 51 Control and later Tower on the unpublished UHF frequencies normally used by test or mission aircraft out of Area 51.”
Red Flag 22-3 is already notable in that it is a relatively rare U.S. military-only iteration of this exercise, which points to the inclusion of particularly sensitive capabilities. Red Flags typically include aircraft and personnel from at least some allied and partner countries, which can preclude the use of any highly classified assets.
The exercise, which is being run out of Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, and conducted in the airspace over the adjacent sprawling Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), started on July 9 and is set to wrap up on July 29. Area 51 sits inside a heavily restricted area referred to as “The Box” in the middle of the NTTR.
Aircraft From Area 51 Are Flying In Latest Air Force Red Flag ExerciseAircraft From Area 51 Are Flying In Latest Air Force Red Flag Exercise