Mission and History
Exercise MAPLE FLAG provides important training for Canadian and allied fighter aircrews, as well as transport, electronic warfare, air refuelling, air defence, and airborne early warning and control assets from many different nations.
During both of the exercise, international participants will engage in a simulated air campaign. Using the vast, unrestricted airspace and more than 640 targets of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), participants engage in daily missions that involve confronting and dealing with air- and ground-based threats.
The exercise promotes initiative and self-discipline in the air, and provides the opportunity for developing tactical and leadership skills. Working together to plan air combat missions and flying these missions in concert with aircraft from other nations fosters and strengthens the professional bonds forged between allied nations.
Exercise MAPLE FLAG is a Canadian variation of the United States Air Force RED FLAG Exercise, held several times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Both exercises were developed in response to a Vietnam War finding that 90 percent of aircraft losses took place during the first ten combat missions. Aircrew who survived these critical first ten missions were more likely to survive the remainder of their combat tour.
In order to enhance survivability and improve performance of aircrew, Exercise RED FLAG was created in 1975. Canadians first participated in RED FLAG in 1977 and a year later, the Canadian Commander of Air Command invited the United States Air Force to hold a northern RED FLAG in Cold Lake. The four-week exercise, named MAPLE FLAG, was a great success and was held by 4 Wing Cold Lake bi-annually thereafter until 1987.
Since 1987, the exercise has been held during one six-week period each spring. MAPLE FLAG continues to be an internationally renowned exercise that provides training for large coalition operations in a structured, academic environment.
The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR)
Exercise participants make use of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) during MAPLE FLAG. The CLAWR covers 1.17 million hectares (11,600 square km), and is the only tactical bombing range in Canada. Vast, unrestricted airspace with no civilian air traffic and more than 640 targets make it an attractive training area for allied air forces.Large varieties of target types are located throughout the CLAWR, making it a dynamic and realistic training environment. These targets are built to resemble tanks, missile launchers, radar sites, industrial sites, command and control centres, and various types of vehicles and aircraft. Among the 100 target complexes within the CLAWR are the seven mock airfields. These airfield targets simulate complete aerodromes, and include runways, ramps, taxiways and dispersal areas. Buildings and ¾-scale airframes and vehicles also add to the realism and training efficacy of these mock aerodromes.