Aggressor Squadron

An aggressor squadron is a squadron that is trained to act as an opposing force in military wargames. Aggressor squadrons use enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures to give a realistic simulation of air combat (as opposed to training against one’s own forces). Since it is impractical to use actual enemy aircraft and equipment, surrogate aircraft are used to emulate potential adversaries. Note: the US Navy and Marine Corps use the term “Adversary” to describe their similar squadrons. The first formal use of dissimilar aircraft for training was in 1968 by the Navy Fighter Weapons School (better known as “TOPGUN“), which used the A-4 Skyhawk to simulate the performance of the MiG-17. The success of formalized Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) led to transition of Navy Instrument Training Squadrons equipped with the A-4 into Adversary Squadrons at each master jet base. The USAF followed suit with their first Aggressor squadrons at Nellis AFB equipped with the readily available T-38 Talon.

Aggressor squadrons in the US armed forces include the USAF 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadron, and the 26th & 527th Space Aggressor Squadron and 507th Air Defense Aggressor Squadron, VMFT-401 (US Marine Corps) and the Navy’s VFC-12 (NAS Oceana), VFC-13 (NAS Fallon) and VFC-111 (NAS Key West) as well as the famous “TOPGUN” Naval Fighter Weapons School (US Navy) which is not a squadron per se, but operates F-16A aircraft as part of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon.

Aggressor aircraft used in the United States

US aggressor squadrons fly light and extremely agile strike fighters that are used to represent those of the potential adversaries. Originally Douglas A-4s (US Navy) and Northrop F-5s (US Navy, Marines, and Air Force) were flown. The Navy and Marine Corps briefly operated 2 squadrons of F-21 Kfir Adversaries at NAS Oceana {VF-43} and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma (VMFT-401). These were eventually supplemented by early-model F/A-18As (US Navy) and specially built F-16Ns (for the US Navy) and F-16A models for the Air Force). Starting at the end of 2005, the USAF has started using the larger and faster F-15 Eagle as an aggressor aircraft alongside the F-16 at Nellis Air Force Base. Nellis will soon receive a total of 24 Eagles to be used in adversary training.

Foreign aircraft have been used as aggressors in the United States, most notably the Israeli Kfir fighter, designated F-21 in its use as an adversary asset. Russian MiG-17s, 21s, and 23s have also been flown by the US Air Force as Aggressors over the Nellis ranges, under the Constant Peg program. The US Army operates eleven Russian aircraft for adversary training, including Mi-24 Hinds, Mi-8 Hips, Mi-2 Hoplites, and An-2 Colts.

German MiG-29 aircraft were regular visitors to the United States before being sold to Poland and participated in valuable DACT training at Nellis AFB as well as NAS Key West in addition to providing dets to overseas locations or hosting US squadrons in Germany. One MiG-29 was loaned to the US for evaluation providing insight in the threat technology.

While aircraft used for the aggressor role are usually older jet fighters, this has not always been the case. During the mid-1980s, the US Navy determined that the A-4s and F-5s flown at Top Gun were not adequate in simulating the air-to-air capabilities of the newest Russian fighters such as the MiG-29 and Su27. At this point, the most agile American fighter was arguably the F-16, but this land-based jet was not flown by the US Navy. The Navy thus asked General Dynamics to design and build a variant of the F-16 specifically for the Navy Adversary role. Any equipment not necessary for visual-range aerial combat was removed enhancing their agility and dogfighting abilities. These F-16s were designated F-16N, and twenty-two were built for the US Navy and flown at its famous “TOPGUN” Navy Fighter Weapons School starting in 1987 as well as with VF-43, VF-45 and VF-126, which were still active duty Adversary squadrons at the time. However, due to the unusually frequent high loads imposed on these aircraft, cracks were detected on the wings after only a few years of operation, leading to the retirement of the F-16N in 1994. In 2002 the Navy began to receive fourteen F-16 A and B models from AMARC that were brand new aircraft originally intended for Pakistan, but had been embargoed. All 14 are operated by NSAWC for use by TOPGUN ion addition to the F/A-18A aircraft already in operation at Fallon.

Aggressor aircraft in the United States are typically painted in colorful camouflage schemes, matching the colors of many Russian aircraft and contrasting with the gray colors used in most operational US combat aircraft. Camouflage schemes that consist of many shades of blue (similar to those used in Sukhoi fighters) or of green and mostly-light brown (similar to the colors used in many Middle Eastern countries’ combat aircraft) are most common.

[edit] Private / outsourced aggressors

Some aggressor missions do not require dogfighting, but instead involve flying relatively simple profiles to test the target acquisition and tracking capabilities of radars, missiles, and aircraft. Some of these missions are outsourced to private companies that operate ex-military jets or small business jets in the aggressor role. Such aircraft include the L39, Alpha Jet, Hawker Hunter, Saab Draken, Kfir, A-4 Skyhawk, and various models of Lear Jets. Most pilots who fly for these companies have experience flying combat aircraft. Examples of such companies include ATAC USA, Top Aces Combat Support (TACS), Advanced Training Systems International, and Hawker Hunter Aviation.

[edit] References

  • Dave Parsons and Derek Nelson (1993) Bandits – History of American Adversarial Aircraft, Motorbooks International.
  • George Hall (1986). TOPGUN – The Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, Presidio Press.
  • Robert Wilcox (2005-reissue)Scream of Eagles, Pocketstar
  • Lou Drendel (revised 1984) …And Kill MiGs!, Squadron/Signal Publications

This article was originally published at Wikipedia.


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