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The F-35 is about to become the Air Force's ultimate enemy
The Air Force is preparing Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to host an aggressor squadron flying F-35 stealth fighters.
The Air Force in May 2019 announced it would re-establish a defunct squadron that flew F-15s to simulate the enemy force in realistic war games. The service in 2014 shuttered the 65th Aggressor Squadron as a cost-saving measure.
The 65th Aggressor Squadron in its new form would operate nine early-model F-35A stealth fighters that the Air Force considers unsuitable for combat. The "red air" F-35s would help the Air Force to copy the tactics of Russian and Chinese squadrons respectively flying Su-57 and J-20 stealth fighters."
Capt. Andrew "Dojo" Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot, performs over Miami Beach, Fla., May 24, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/.Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)
The unit, which will include 194 military personnel and 37 contract personnel, will require an additional 60,000 square feet of facilities and 300,000 square feet of ramp space," Col. Travolis Simmons, commander of the 57th Adversary Tactics Group, told Air Force magazine's Amy McCullough.
"The exact military construction ask is still being worked out, but Simmons said the service will need to build one new hangar and more sunshades."
Between the 64th Aggressor Squadron's F-16s, Draken International's fleet of contracted red air, and visiting aircraft that fly in for large-scale exercises such as Red Flag, real estate already is at a premium at Nellis, but Simmons said the service doesn't expect to have to increase the ramp space.
"Obviously, at Nellis we're working through that right now, where that space is going to be," he said, noting the military construction projects likely will be funded in the service's fiscal [year] 2021 budget.
The 65th Aggressor Squadron's F-35s, which currently are with a training unit at Eglin Air Force in Florida, may be some of the least capable of the Air Force's roughly 200 F-35s, but they still represent a major upgrade for the service's aggressor force.
"The F-35's ability to play the bad guy will surpass that of any aircraft ever tasked with the mission before," The War Zone editor Tyler Rogoway wrote.
The aircraft is uniquely suited to replicate a wide range of threats with unprecedented high fidelity. I have talked with sources about this in the past and they have noted that the F-35's software alone should be able to be manipulated to replicate the sensor, sensor fusion, electronic warfare and communications capabilities of adversary threats.
In other words, applications could be designed to limit various aspects of the F-35's capabilities—and enhance others synthetically via data-link—to better mirror that of the aircraft it is masquerading as. In addition, it can be equipped with bolt-on radar reflectors that may be able to be manipulated to better replicate certain radar signatures of enemy aircraft, including those that aren't even stealthy at all.
Once the 65th Aggressor Squadron stands up, the Air Force will have three dedicated red-air units. The 64th Aggressor Squadron flies F-16s from Nellis. The 18th Aggressor Squadron and its F-16s are based in Alaska.
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have their own adversary squadrons flying F-16s, F/A-18s and F-5s. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps also contract with civilian companiessuch as Draken for red-air services.
The Air Force isn't waiting for the 65th Aggressor Squadron to form before it sends F-35s to portray enemy planes. For two weeks starting in late April 2019, F-35s from the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and reserve 419th Fighter Wing played the part of enemy fighters in a wide-ranging war game at Hill that also involved Air Force pilot trainees flying F-16s as well as adversary planes from Draken.
The F-35s alongside F-16s and Draken's own planes played the part of the enemy force. "We flew 100 F-35A missions with 22 aircraft, integrated on 56 F-16 missions and defended vulnerable assets for a 16-hour window," the 388th Fighter Wing stated on social media.
The "blue force" F-16s outnumbered the "red force" F-35s, F-16s and adversaries. "We were severely outnumbered," said Maj. Thomas Meyer, a weapons officer with the 388th Fighter Wing. "We had a five-to-one aggressor ratio and we were tasked with defending a list of assets over an eight-hour tour time block. We had aircraft sitting in alert status to respond to whatever enemy threats were presented."
Maj. Benjamin Walters, an F-16 instructor pilot, praised the F-35 pilots playing red air. "These guys are getting really good at flying the F-35 and they can present some aggressive situations that force young pilots into errors," Walters said.
This article originally appeared on The National Interest.
More from The National Interest:
- NATO Fears Russia Jamming Its GPS Systems in a War. They Might Have a Solution
- The Story of Why Russia Suddenly Scrambled Half Of Its Stealth Fighters
- This U.S. Ally Almost Built Its Very Own Mach 3 'SR-71' Spyplane
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In a news release Wednesday, Exchange officials said scammers using the name "Exchange Inc." have "fooled" soldiers and airmen to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and boat engines.
KABUL (Reuters) - The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.
The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.
Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.
The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels".
Calling aviation geeks in New York City: The British are coming.
In their first visit to the United States since 2008, the Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" will perform an aerial demonstration next week over the Hudson River, according to an Air Force news release. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels demonstration teams will also be part of the show.
Frances and Efrain Santiago, natives of Puerto Rico, wanted to show their support last month for protesters back home seeking to oust the island's governor.
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Someone from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association left a letter at their home, citing a "flag violation" and warning: "Please rectify the listed violation or you may incur a fine."
Frances Santiago, 38, an Army veteran, demanded to know why.
A West Point graduate received a waiver from the U.S. Army to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, and play in the NFL while serving as an active-duty soldier.
The waiver for 2nd Lt. Brett Toth was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who said that Toth signed a three-year deal with the Eagles. Toth graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2018.