The Red Flag exercises, held periodically at the Nellis Air Force Base since 1975, are very realistic aerial war games. The purpose is to give pilots from the U.S., NATO and other allied countries an opportunity to practice and refine their skills for real combat situations. This includes the use of "enemy" hardware and live ammunition for bombing exercises within the Nellis complex. The exercises with flares and all kinds of aircraft can make a spectacular show, especially at night. There are usually two or three sorties per day (except on weekends): One or two sorties during daytime and one in the evening or at night. The night exercises usually inlude only one half of the daytime forces.
There are two teams, the good guys (Blue Team) and the aggressors (Red Team). The Red Team is composed of Nellis AFB-based pilots specially trained for this purpose, flying F-15 and F-16 aircraft. The Blue Team is composed of the various guest "players" in their native aircraft.
The above quoted information is from an older website, so I cannot vouch for how accurate the information is in 2012. This exercise will also include military participants from South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
From The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia:
A series of joint exercises, dubbed Red Flag 5, have begun at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada with the participation of the U.S. Air Force, the Saudi Royal Air Force, and Republic of Korean Air Force. The Saudi contingent includes pilots, technicians and aides operating several fighter jets. The exercises are scheduled to last for ten days.
Red Flag 12-2 scheduled Jan. 23-Feb. 3
Release Number: 010112
1/10/2012 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. - -- Southern Nevada residents may notice increased military aircraft activity as the Air Force conducts Red Flag 12-2 Jan. 23 - Feb. 3, 2012.
Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States and its allies. The exercise is hosted north of Las Vegas on the Nevada Test and Training Range--the U.S. Air Force's premier military training area with more than 12,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land. With 1,900 possible targets, realistic threat systems and an opposing enemy force that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world, Nellis and the NTTR are the home of a "peacetime battlefield," providing combat air forces with the ability to train to fight together, survive together and win together.
The 414th Combat Training Squadron is responsible for executing Red Flag and the exercise is just one of a series of advanced training programs administered at Nellis and on the NTTR by organizations assigned to the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center.
Throughout the Red Flag exercise, more than 90 aircraft are scheduled to depart Nellis twice a day, around noon and again around 6 p.m. Aircraft may remain in the air for up to four hours. The flying times are scheduled to accommodate the other flying missions at Nellis and provide Red Flag participants with valuable training in planning and executing a wide-variety of combat missions.
The exercise will include units from:
Nevada, Colorado, South Dakota, Louisiana, Utah, California, Republic of Korea, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Massachusetts and Oklahoma flying aircraft including the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, E-3 Sentry, B-1 Lancer, and KC-135 Stratotanker.
In addition to U.S. aircraft, the Saudi Royal Air Force and the Republic of Korea will participate with their nations' F-15 aircraft.
For more information about Red Flag, call the Nellis Public Affairs Office at (702) 652-2750 or go to http://www.nellis.af.mil/redflag-nellis/.
NOTE TO MEDIA: Nellis will hold a Red Flag Media Day Jan. 31, 2012. Outlets interested in attending the media day can email your name, date of birth, media outlet represented and coverage goals for Red Flag 2-12 to email@example.com no later than Jan. 22, 2012. International Media must also submit nation of origin and passport number. Media requests submitted after Jan. 23, 2012, will not be facilitated.