NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Red Flag, an air-to-air combat training exercise offered here, provides training for U.S. and allied nations’ combat air forces pilots, coming as close to a real world experience as possible.
Airmen of the 507th Air Defense Aggressor Squadron, the only squadron of its kind in the U.S. Air Force, add another element to the training that pilots are able to encounter, react, and hopefully overcome. This simulated threat comes in the form of the surface-to-air missile.
“One of the biggest threats out there today is a ground threat, or enemies shooting up at our pilots,” Capt. Justin Davis, 507th ADAS instructor, said. “It is not a good way to be prepared if you go up in some type of scenario where you have never actually seen the threat, and maybe have only read about it.”
It is the role of the 507th ADAS to make pilots more aware of what a potential enemy can do with a SAM, and how to defeat it.
“You need experience to go up against those threats,” Davis said. “Airmen can go through this training and actually fight against them. When they are deployed, they can be armed with a better understanding on how to defeat what is out there that is trying to kill them.”
By utilizing surface-to-air missile simulators on the Nevada Test and Training Range, training has become unique at Nellis. With the use of a software modeling program that simulates the SAM’s, the training experience gains an added realism.
“We have software and computer modeling that will replicate what certain missiles will do so the flight profile and the kinematics of the missile will all be simulated to accurately determine if a missile destroyed an aircraft,” Davis said. “The instructors will use that system, and some other techniques that we have, to ensure we have a good product for the aircrew.”
The men and women of the 507th ADAS provide a lot of experience due to the variety of career fields within the squadron.
“The vast experience and all of the different backgrounds add a lot to the quality of work we produce,” Lt. Col. Matt Nicholson, 507th ADAS commander said. “The fighter pilots bring an aggressive aspect, the Electronic Warfare Officers try to find out how to defeat the SAM’s electronically, and the intelligence Airmen look at obstacles at a more academic level and view information as a means to solve a problem.”
In addition to a trained group who bring multiple ways of thinking and problem solving to enhance training, actual life experience adds quality and realism to the SAM portion of a Red Flag training experience.
“We have a lot of operational experience,” Nicholson said. “Not only have they studied SAM’s but they also have been targeted and shot at by them. A lot of these Airmen have blown them up in combat. Not only do they study these systems, but they have fought against them in real world situations.”
Airmen of the 507th ADAS are not only responsible for simulating the SAM threat, but also are required to enhance existing procedures when encountering and reacting to one.
“The instructors are responsible for two main parts,” Davis said. “They are required to help educate people as they come through. We decide which simulated missiles took out which aircraft. At the end of the day, that’s what everyone wants to know. ‘When I went up against these ground threats, did I survive? If I did get taken out how do I succeed next time?’ Instructors of the 507th ADAS are there to help Airmen figure that part out.”
“They are also responsible to assess the threats that are out there targeting what we call our blue forces,” Davis said. “We’re sending people to foreign air shows to check out the latest and greatest assets that countries are advertising. We also work with outside entities to see what kind of new training they are conducting. We are on the move quite a bit.”
With a constantly changing battlefield, the 507th ADAS, is able to add an element to the training experience here service members can’t receive anywhere else.
(See photo feature on pages 16 and 17.)