NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The skies over the base here are quieter than they have been in quite some time due to the Air Combat Command stand down of flying that took effect June 1 for the rest of the fiscal year.
Despite the stand down, the 64th Aggressor Squadron remains committed to excellence and service in trying to accomplish their mission, said Lt. Col. Michael Shepherd, 64th AGRS academic assistant director of operations.
The 64th AGRS is assigned to the 57th Adversary Tactics Group at Nellis AFB. Their primary mission is to provide support to the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Red Flag exercises, the various test and evaluation squadrons and to provide training to units in the Combat Air Force on adversary tactics.
“Our motto is ‘know, teach and replicate,’” Shepherd said. “As Aggressors, we are subject matter experts in a field of adversary tactics or systems anywhere from airplanes to missiles to actual tactics to electronic attacks.”
The 64th AGRS is planning to focus on learning as much as possible about adversary tactics and providing training to the rest of the CAF due to the reduction in flight hours.
“We will continue to seek out the most current intelligence, and update our briefs so we can disseminate that information to the CAF as much as we can,” Shepherd said. “By no stretch of the imagination are we just shutting down our squadron.”
There are plans in place for the 64th AGRS to work together as a team with other units on Nellis AFB to gain valuable insight and experience, Shepherd said. The U.S. Air Force Weapons School 16th Weapons Squadron, which teaches the F-16 Fighting Falcon USAFWS course, will work together with the 64th AGRS.
There is an academic agenda in place for the summer, Shepherd said. The 16th WPS will refresh the 64th AGRS on the tactics currently employed by the CAF and the 64th AGRS will reciprocate by teaching the 16th WPS the Aggressors’ academics. Every week a member of the 64th AGRS will certify as a subject matter expert in one of their adversary topics.
“We have a robust schedule throughout the summer. We will still be busy; it will just be a different kind of busy than we have become used to,” Shepherd said.
The pilots of the 64th AGRS will also try to stay as current in their flight ratings through the use of flight simulators and in limited flying to support the 422nd Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron, Shepherd said. Many of them will end up losing most of their currencies and will have to regain them in October. Though the simulators will be used to try and mitigate the lack of practice to the best of their abilities.
The 64th AGRS pilots will concentrate on practicing emergency procedures in the simulators.
“They cannot afford to lose proficiency in carrying out those procedures because they need to be able to fly and land safely,” Shepherd said.
There are few flight currencies that can be updated in simulators.
“While we can’t officially update them, we can still use the simulators to stay proficient,” Shepherd said.
“It’s going to be a process to get everyone back up to the level they are at right now no matter what we do during the summer,” said Capt. Paul Anderson, 64th Aggressor Squadron B-flight commander. “In order to keep ourselves sharp and keep our mindset, we have adopted a kind of back to basics mentality. We just went over and did the first run in the simulators today to establish how we want to use them. It was really good, we got to see some of the challenges others are facing and learn how to better challenge our customers and improve their learning and training. Right now, [the simulator] is the tool that we have to use, and we are going to have to figure out how we are going to use it to replicate our tactics.“
The pilots of the 64th AGRS have been studying the most recent combat tactics employed by CAF units and are trying to replicate them in the simulators. They are flying against adversary tactics to gain a greater perspective of what the CAF units’ experience in the simulator as well.
“It validates our credibility as Aggressors,” Shepherd said. “We have to stay as current in the tactics and knowledge of things as we possibly can and of executing our mission in new ways.”
“The ideal way to train is to combine academics with flying, but since we are not flying we are offering as much academics as we can,” Anderson said. “You are able to talk about a threat and then go and see how it is actually employed. It drives home the point.”
In addition to staying professionally proficient in their own fields and teaching others through traditional in-person briefings, the 64th AGRS will use innovation and technology to accomplish their mission.
“The technology gives us a greater ability to get the information out there,” Shepherd said. “We have something called Virtual flag. It’s like Red Flag but in simulators. Everyone taps in, and we can be Aggressors in our simulators here. We can fly against the guys in [Royal Air Force] Lakenheath, England. I don’t think simulator training will ever be able to fully encompass what you get in real life but it is good training.”
The goal is to continue to give the CAF the training needed to go out and fly, fight and win without sacrificing safety or airmanship.
“One of my best directors of operations, when we were getting ready to deploy to Iraq, his mantra was embrace the pain,” Shepherd said. “I think that’s very relevant. It’s hard when you deploy, and it’s hard when you suddenly have all of your flying hours taken from you. Embrace it and make a positive out of it whatever way you can.”
“Know, teach, and replicate,” Anderson said. “We are still trying to carry out our mission.”