Eielson: this is Aggressor Country
By Senior Airman Rachelle Coleman, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 25, 2011
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, superhero and super villain -- every fight has a good guy and a bad guy. A team of pilots here fills both rolls, playing adversary and teacher to educate other aircrews how to defeat real enemies.
The mission of the 18th Aggressor Squadron is to prepare U.S. and allied forces for combat by providing realistic combat training, in the air and on the ground. The aggressors act as the red forces, or bad guys, in training missions during RED FLAG-Alaska. They are professional, dedicated threat experts and live by the fundamentals - know the threat, teach the threat, replicate the threat.
"Our task is to prepare the combat air forces of our nation and allied nations so they're ready for victory in tomorrow's wars. We do that by providing academics to them and by providing adversary capabilities in the air to train against," said Lt. Col. Todd Emmons, 18th Aggressor Squadron commander.
The squadron supports the 354th Fighter Wing while balancing the priority training needs of combat air forces. The five priorities, set by the Pacific Air Forces commander, are to support RED FLAG - Alaska and NORTHERN EDGE large force flying exercises, support mobile training teams and DISTANT FRONTIER, support fifth generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, provide PACAF bases support by participating in exercises like COPE NORTH and VALIANT SHIELD, and to support other combat air force test and training requirements.
While most people may think of an aggressor squadron as pilots flying missions, an aggressor squadron entails much more than simply flying. Pilots, along with the rest of the squadron's personnel, constantly study enemy aircraft and tactics.
"There's more to being an aggressor than just the flying side of it, we're just one small piece," said Colonel Emmons. "The neat thing about being an aggressor is you're going to spend all your time and energy to get to know that adversary. You probably had an idea of what adversary capabilities were, but we get into the weeds to know every nut and bolt we can."
"As aggressor pilots, we're flying an awesome airplane, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It allows us to replicate just about every adversary airplane in existence. On a daily basis, it may look like we're flying an F-16 but we are replicating some type of other platform," he added.
The squadron also offers intelligence Airmen, joint terminal attack controllers and Airmen of other career fields an opportunity to learn and train, whether it be command and control, transport, tankers or close air support.
"The learning is for everybody. As aggressors we get to touch on every aspect of a combat employment," said Colonel Emmons.
The squadron is one of ten aggressor squadrons in the U.S. Air Force. Being an aggressor pilot requires experience, and every aggressor pilot is board selected.
"We've got a pretty amazing opportunity here at Eielson. We're flying a great airplane and the airspace, the Joint Pacific-Alaska Range Complex, we get to fly in is outstanding," said Colonel Emmons. "It's definitely a team effort with the 353rd Combat Training Squadron. We couldn't do our job without CTS pilots flying with us, and RF-A without the aggressors would require other units to come in to provide enemy air defense forces."
By training like they fight, the U.S. and its allies can rest assured they have what it takes to make sure the good guys are undefeated.