NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
In order to provide a realistic training environment of air-to-air combat for allied and coalition forces, some pilots take up the role of being the “enemy”. The 64th Aggressors Squadron acts as professional adversaries for Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Some of those professional adversaries come from the 706th Fighter Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit.
“The adversary side with a significant amount of [Air Force] Reserve support was to essentially provide participants high fidelity training and try to prevent them from accomplishing their mission,” said Lt. Col. Jan Stahl, 706th FS commander. “For us, this is a great example of the total force integration working relationship with the 57th Wing, where we don’t provide any of the aircraft, but the manpower for the pilot and maintenance side fills in the gaps to maintain mission readiness.”
Crew chiefs assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron like seeing the consistency of who they work and interact with in the workplace.
“It’s great seeing the different type of people, whether they’re active duty or not fly these aircraft,” said Airman 1st Class Russell Lee. “It shows how consistent and effective our training is.”
Stahl was the mission commander for the 19 aircraft acting as the adversary side, the Aggressors, in the Red Flag 19-3 training mission on July 16, 2019.
“Of the 19 aircraft that were airborne that day, five of them were flown by our reservists,” said Stahl. “Coincidentally those guys turned out to be the most experienced for the mission flown.”
It’s well known that Nellis is host to one of the largest air-to-air combat training exercises in the world. Red Flag provides aircrews and pilots the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment over the Nevada Test and Training Range. Aircraft from Nellis operate over the NTTR, which offers more than 15,000 square miles of airspace and 4,700 square miles of restricted land.
“The reserve component here acts as a shock absorber,” Stahl stated. “Providing the manpower where there’s fluctuations occurring assists in ensuring that the mission remains unimpeded.”
The mission of the 706th Fighter Squadron is to oversee Air Force Reserve Command members assigned to the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, supporting missions in its 57th Wing, 53rd Wing and 505th Command and Control Wing. Pilots assigned to the 706th FS fly aircrafts to include the F-15C, F-15E, F-16, F-22 and F-35 aircraft.
The magnitude of the Red Flag exercise can create challenges due to the logistics and manpower that are involved.
“Without the manning, experience and continuity from reserve and partners, it would be impossible to pull an exercise like this,” Stahl added. “That’s what really makes this extra rewarding.”