Events

June 8, 2012

Aggressors reunite for 40th anniversary, glimpse of future

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By 1st Lt. Ken Lustig
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Current and former members of adversary tactics units reunite for the 40th Aggressor Reunion, June 1, 2012 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The Aggressors help prepare joint and allied forces for combat by providing realistic threat replication, training, test support, academics, and feedback.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The 57th Adversary Tactics group hosted the 40th anniversary reunion of current and former Aggressor unit members June 1-2, 2012.

The event, attended by about 300 alumni of the Air Force’s adversary tactics program, highlighted the achievements of the current adversary organization and its predecessors and was a forum for discussion of the organization’s future.

The Aggressors, collectively, have provided a “red force” that simulates the equipment and tactics used by potential U.S. adversaries. During exercise and test missions, they role-play as opponents for regular Air Force, Joint and Allied combat units, referred to as the “blue force.”

Col. Daniel Tippett, the 57th Adversary Tactics Group commander, said his organization makes U.S. and Allied personnel better prepared for combat when they face his adversary force at major exercises and training such as Red Flag, during the U.S. Air Force Weapon School’s Weapons Instructor Course, and several other joint and international exercises.

“The blue guys walk away overwhelmed sometimes – but they walk away better,” said Tippett.

Tippett contrasted the Air Force’s first dedicated, air-to-air only Aggressor unit, established in 1972, with the multi-disciplinary and integrated opposition force that his current organization provides. The 57 ATG currently fields not only fighters and other aircraft threats, but also air defense artillery, cyber, intelligence gathering, physical security, electronic attack and space threats. The contemporary 57 ATG also includes Air Force Reserve and National Guard members and units.

Tippett said Aggressor unit members closely study specific foreign threat systems and organizations, empowering them to act as both realistic opponents and knowledgeable instructors for the units that train with them. The studies are continually refined as the units reassign subject matter experts, evaluated with the scrutiny given to postgraduate academic papers.

“The foundation of what we do is based on the best intelligence available,” he said. “Everything starts with the intel guys. If we’re not starting with intel, we’re missing the mark.”

He also said that his red force only simulates threats based on intelligence estimates of potential adversary nations’ capabilities, in order to maintain the integrity and credibility of training.

Tippett spoke to attendees about what he envisions as the future of the Aggressors.

He forecasts an increased use of 57 ATG squadrons as mobile trainers to joint military units. The 57 ATG already supports a broad variety of customers – not just as air-to-air opponents, but also as challengers to naval vessels, cyber network operations centers, and military command centers around the world that could be potential targets for cyber, information or space-based attacks.

He also sees an increase in cooperation with the Air Combat Command Inspector General Office’s operational inspection program, offering highly credible evaluation of whether or not a unit is prepared for combat. The 57 ATG brings formal academic expertise and realistic electronic attack capability that would be prohibitively difficult to duplicate using an ad hoc group of opponents drawn from a local unit.

“The IG recognizes our capabilities present a more realistic threat than what’s available in the regular force,” he said. “They see that we make their units step up their game — it keeps them on their toes.”

The 57 ATG holds a strong future stake in simulators. The Air Force’s near-to-long term plans include of a robust “Virtual Flag” exercise environment in which networked simulators of many kinds share a common battlespace despite being physically at different installations. Another emerging concept is the live-virtual construct, in which a mix of simulated and live weapon systems is able to engage in the same battlespace through sensor and display-based presentation.

Tippett said the Aggressors’ services remain in constant demand from operational units seeking to improve. His air units have the most flying hours on base and the whole group keeps a packed calendar.

“We’ve got plenty of business – probably more than we can ever schedule with the resources on hand,” he said. “As long as the [combat air forces] needs the most realistic red force threat training possible, we’ll stay that way.”




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