Located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., the U.S. Air Force’s premier Threat Training Facility, owned and managed by the 547th Intelligence Squadron, houses a collection of adversary weapons including ground equipment, surface-to-air missile systems, and aircraft.
Currently, the TTF, also known as the “Petting Zoo,” is closed to the public while the equipment is being relocated at Nellis AFB near the Simmons Gate as part of the 365th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group MILCON project.
The expected completion of the relocation move and re-opening is early 2023.
What is the ‘Petting Zoo’?
“The purpose of the TTF is to educate and train warfighters through a blend of physical and virtual instructional methodologies,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeremy Hirsch, 547th Intelligence Squadron commander. “Seeing these real weapons systems up close offers unique opportunities to understand how they might be used by an adversary in combat.”
While much of the equipment is Soviet era, these systems can bolster the unit’s understanding of tactics observed on modern battlefields like Ukraine, and can be used as building blocks toward understanding more advanced threats being fielded by our adversaries, according to Hirsch.
Why the relocation?
“The TTF move offers an opportunity to bring threat-representative training to a new generation of Airmen,” Hirsh said.
One of the first benefits of the move is the opportunity to refurbish equipment that has been sunbaking in the Las Vegas heat for decades to restore the look and feel of the older systems.
The 547th team has carefully planned the new layout to take students on a journey from early technology to newer weapons systems. For example, there will be a ‘Mig-Alley’ that starts with a Korean War-era MiG-17 Fresco and ends with a MiG-29 Fulcrum.
“We will also maintain our SA-8 and SA-13 surface-to-air missile systems in partial working condition to continue to offer unique training opportunities to Airmen and visitors using real systems,” Hirsh added.
According to Hirsh, in order to maximize the training value of the TTF, they are blending technology to fill training gaps to take students beyond what is in front of them using tools such as QR-code links to videos and information that can be accessed from any smart phone and will be taking delivery of several new assets that will become available to our customers at a classified level.
In the end, this effort to modernize the TTF will pay dividends for the Joint Force by helping the warfighter better understand the threats they will face in training environments and in combat.
What can people expect in the meantime?
In the interim, there will still be several opportunities to interact with some of the weapon systems and 547th IS instructors, including the Nellis AFB Air Show which is scheduled for November.
“We expect to provide several static displays and offer walk-around tours and briefs to anyone who stops by the 547th IS booth,” said Hirsch.
Lastly, the 547th IS Training Flight subject matter experts remain postured to offer tailored classroom-style training opportunities for units or groups who coordinate with us ahead of time.