April 18, 2007 (by 1st Lt David Tomiyama) - Eielson Air Force Base F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots took to the sky as aggressors for the first time in Red Flag-Alaska history during the exercise that runs April 5 through 21.
F-16C block 40 #88-0482 from the 18th FS, enters final approach over Eielson AFB after returning from a Red Flag-Alaska 07-1 mission on April 16th, 2007
Flying with the 64th Aggressor Squadron from Nellis AFB
, Nev., Eielson AFB pilots began the transition of a permanent F-16 aggressor squadron for Red Flag-Alaska.
Red Flag-Alaska is scheduled to add its own F-16 aggressors in August when the 18th Fighter Squadron becomes the 18th Aggressor Squadron.
Aggressors are a valuable training tool for Red Flags. The pilots and aircraft, F-15 Eagles or F-16s, are specially trained to act as the enemy during exercise scenarios. The aircraft sport distinguishable paint jobs, and pilots use only the capabilities the enemies have available to them.
"Our role is to provide realistic training for blue forces by replicating enemy threat aircraft and command and control systems," said Lt. Col. Brook Leonard, the 18th Fighter Squadron director of operations.
During a Red Flag-Alaska mission, eight to 10 F-16 aggressors fly against coalition forces. The aggressors mimic MiGs or other enemy aircraft to test and train pilots in offensive and defensive counter-air maneuvers.
To become an aggressor, 18th FS
pilots train for weeks at Nellis AFB. The training includes intensive academics, numerous upgrade sorties and the specialization of a particular enemy aircraft.
"Every aggressor becomes an expert on a particular enemy threat system and is responsible for compiling the latest intelligence and building academics," Colonel Leonard said. "The training is different, but not difficult; however, it takes a concentrated effort to excel."
When Red Flag-Alaska exercises are not taking place, the aggressor pilots will continue to fly both operational and aggressor missions. Operational missions allow pilots to continue insight into enemy tactics while aggressor missions help pilots build an insight into how to provide better training.
"The transition time actually provides a unique and beneficial opportunity," Colonel Leonard said. "Our mission in the Air Force is to provide combat capability to the joint forces commander, and training to both missions at the same time makes our time in the air more efficient."
Beginning this fall, the 18th FS is scheduled to swap F-16s with Kadena Air Base, Japan. The aggressor F-16s will receive the distinct paint jobs late this year. The final transition from operational to aggressor F-16s is scheduled to take place in February 2008 when all operational pilots will have moved onto other assignments, leaving only aggressor pilots in the squadron, Colonel Leonard said.
During past Red Flags here, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron brought in various units to play as aggressor forces. A permanent aggressor squadron relieves the 353rd CTS from the logistics and scheduling conflicts that come with finding a unit to participate.
"Having our one aggressor squadron brings stability and consistency to the red air side of the house," said Capt. Ron Strobach, the 353rd CTS team chief. "Having one unit here for one job for every exercise brings consistency and stability in our training."