ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT --- U.S. military pilots who head to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, will soon find out what it's like to go up against an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The service earlier this month announced that it is reactivating the 65th Aggressor Squadron and moving 11 F-35A Lightning IIs to the base to serve as aggressor air, or "red air," training. The move is part of a larger initiative to give pilots the experience they'll need in a high-end conflict.
While advanced jets acting as "red air" isn't new, the Air Force sees the necessity to craft an aggressor squadron made up entirely of the Pentagon's premier jet, according to the service's outgoing top civilian. She says it makes solid economic sense.
"And here's the reason: We're talking about the early F-35s, so in order to bring them up to Block 4 [software configuration] standards, it would take about $15 million apiece to retrofit them. Instead, we can use them as aggressors quite well," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Military.com in a recent interview. "We need to be able to simulate a high-end adversary, and this is a pretty cost-effective way to do it." (end of excerpt)
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