Contracted Aggressors Provide New Opportunities
(Source: US Air Force; issued Feb 04, 2019)
Three L-159 Honeybadgers taxi down the flight-line for training on Jan. 24th, 2019, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Originally operated by the Czech Air Force, the Aero L-159 gives F-35A pilots a chance to take on a unique target in training. (USAF file photo)
EGLIN AFB, Fla. --– Instructor pilots and students from the 58th Fighter Squadron integrated with a civilian contracted aggressor squadron to conduct air defense training Jan. 24, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base.

This marks the first time the 58th FS has looked outside of Air Force units to find adversary support for training requirements.

“Having contract adversaries here provides us the capability to increase the capacity for student training,” said Lt. Col. Jon Snyder, 58th FS commander. “It provides us additional adversary capability that we can’t necessarily replicate.”

Currently, instructor pilots are taught to fly both offensive/defensive “blue air” and aggressor “red air” missions for any training within the 58th FS, which takes them away from training students.

“It is a requirement that we have adversaries to support our training,” said Snyder. “If we have to support all our missions in-house, that means less student sorties we can fly.”

Previously, students and instructors have practiced air-to-air tactics against other F-35 pilots or a different Air Force squadron.

“It provides us a different aircraft to fly against, and that’s important for us to test our system knowledge as well as our own tactics against [an aircraft] that isn’t an F-35,” said Snyder.

The 58th FS produced 68 F-35A Lightning II pilots and 13 instructor pilots in 2018 but leadership is looking to increase that number and build up the fleet.

“The Nomads of the 33rd Fighter Wing are extraordinarily good at what we do: training and developing the future of the F-35 community,” said Col. Paul Moga, 33rd FW commander. “As we continue our efforts to expand and transform training in order to graduate more and graduate faster, we welcome opportunities such as this that make us even better. Steel sharpens steel.”

Finding alternatives, like civilian contractors, increases the mission capacity for the 58th FS to provide more student missions and graduate new pilots faster.

“I’ve flown both fifth generation aircraft and I think this is absolutely the right way to go to support adversary training for this aircraft,” said Snyder. “It provides a better and more realistic adversary replication for our pilots as well as a cheaper price point to fly against. I think if we can continue down this path, it’ll definitely make us stronger as an Air Force.”

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