The U.S. Congress has added language in the next defense budget to stop the U.S. Air Force (USAF) from transferring nine non-combat capable F-35As from Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) to Nellis to standup the 65th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS).
According to Air Force Magazine, before the service can proceed, Gen. David Goldfein must report to Congress on:
“Potential locations for F-35 aggressors, including an analysis of installations that have the size and availability of airspace necessary to meet flying operations requirements; have sufficient capacity and availability of range space; are capable of hosting advanced threat training exercises; and meet or require minimal addition to the environmental requirements associated with the basing action.”
An analysis of the costs and timelines associated with expanding and modernizing existing USAF aggressor squadrons, to include “upgrading aircraft radar, infrared search-and-track systems, radar warning receiver, tactical datalink, threat representation jamming pods, and other upgrades necessary to provide a realistic advanced adversary threat.”
“It is critical that the Air Force has the capability to train against an advanced air adversary in order to be prepared for conflicts against a modern enemy force, and that in order to have this capability, the Air Force must have access to an advanced adversary force prior to United States adversaries fielding a 5th-generation operational capability; and the Air Force’s plan to use low-rate initial production F-35As as aggressor aircraft reflects a recognition of the need to field a modernized aggressor fleet,” according to the policy conference report released on Dec. 9.
The 65th AGRS, which previously flew F-15s as aggressors, was inactivated in 2014 due to budget cuts.
The service also wants to move two more F-35s from Edwards AFB, Calif, to the 24th Tactical Air Support Squadron at Nellis for additional close air support training.
The USAF has two aggressor squadrons, one at Nellis AFB, Nev., and one at Eielson AFB, Alaska. Both fly F-16s.
Congressional emphasis on improving organic USAF aggressors comes as the Air Force also looks to bolster the role of contracted Red Air under a potential $6.4 billion multi-award contract. In October, USAF awarded seven companies an indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity contract, allowing them to vie for task orders at up to 22 locations, including as many as 12 for adversary air and 10 for contract CAS.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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