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Civilian Aggressor Squadrons


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Also known as contracted aggressors.

 

Apparently this has been a fact since at least 2015, but to replace the now shuttered Aggressor Squadrons, the USAF and US Navy/ Marines are now sparring with privately owned fleets of ex-military jets.

 

http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2018/April%202018/Red-Air-for-Hire.aspx

 

https://aerospaceamerica.aiaa.org/features/red-air-reset/

 

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/25075/how-f-5s-beat-out-f-16s-for-the-navys-latest-commercial-aggressor-contract

 

The contracts are huge, but apparently it saves wear and tear on military owned aircraft, and also doesn't tie up very expensive and short supply military pilots.

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Skysoldier80

Interesting to say at least. I know at one point at JRTC, we were flying EX-RUS Mi-2, Mi-35, Mi-8, and jumped out of AN-2's, but the contract was too expensive so that was cancelled years ago. With budget restraints, I say ":why not?"

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Lee Ragan

A recent issue of Air Force magazine had an extensive article on these civilian contract Aggressor units.

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Really not a new idea but well worth the money. I think around 1979 there were several civilian contract operators of Lear 24's that were simulating ship launched anti-ship missiles with the USN. The Lears were out of Oceanside airport as I recall. Not the same of course as the ACM stuff going on now but the same idea. Canada the UK and NATO Countries also now have contract aggressor forces. As mentioned above the US Army also contracted civilian groups flying various Russian helicopters out of El Paso some 20 years ago.

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A nice summary article: When it is Good to Be Bad

 

https://duotechservices.com/history-of-adversary-air-when-its-good-to-be-bad

 

These are 4 main reasons contracted air services exist:
  1. Dollars to operate the US military fleet: the US military faces a significant cost to operate its own wartime jets–tens of thousands per flight hour to operate. Shown below are estimated costs per flight hour of some of the more advanced fighters in the US inventory. The training schools are highly demanding on aircraft flying multiple sorties daily with up to dozens of aircraft needing to be available for larger exercises.
    https://www.businessinsider.com/chart-shows-hourly-cost-of-military-aircraft-2014-12
    Contracted air services can provide the level of effort required to fly ‘red air sorties’ enabling realistic ACM training for the ‘blue air’ US pilots at a fractional price compared to that of the government-operated aircraft.
  2. Wear and tear on US fleet: Additional flight hours for training cause a drain on the life of any type of jet. Keeping hours off the United States’ active wartime fleet airframes is critical to the jets being available in the event of an international conflict.
  3. Capturing the experience of former military aviators: As US military pilots rotate out of active duty and into civilian life, all of that training goes with them. These are combat aviators with hundreds and even thousands of flight hours on multiple types of military jets. These include Top Gun and USAF Weapons School graduates and instructors, test pilots, and even astronauts who can provide invaluable training to current US military pilots.
  4. Providing 5th gen capabilities on a 4th gen aircraft for training: The ability to replicate a foreign threat at an affordable price is a highly desired commodity by the USAF, USN, and USMC. By teaming with forward-leaning industry partners, these commercial air service contractors can equip their jets with the latest modern technology to give the best training aides possible to US DoD pilots. Rather than relying on the airframe OEM to upgrade the jets with new sensors/avionics, which for 10 or even 20 aircraft would be prohibitively expensive, these contractors are commissioning their own upgrades such as the Duotech NEMESIS RADAR.
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Add my name to the "wow" column. Congress and the Pentagon really need to reconsider whether defunding aggressor squadron ops was/is a good idea. I can't help but wonder about how effective the training for our active USAF/Navy/Marine pilots, flying current technology hardware will be, when flying against Aggressor hardware of an earlier generation. No matter the skill level of the aggressor pilots, if their equipment under-performs compared to current military equipment, then the aggressors may be at a tactical disadvantage before they even leave the ground....to the detriment of the level of training our USAF/Navy/Marine pilots receive when flying against them.

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From what I have read in passing, these older aircraft are significantly upgraded to resemble current threat technology. There looks to be a whole cadre of defense contractors lined up for these upgrades. That last citation I provided was a publicity piece from just such a contractor, and I think it had links to others as well.

 

As far as piloting skills, the articles point to using experienced ex-military pilots.

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I'm an airplane junkie so I knew of this a while back. In fact, I knew a warbird pilot who joined the MA ANG and flew F-15s for several years, then once he was finished, contracted to fly for Draken. I believe one of the companies, this past year (2018) had just bought a good amount of A-4 Skyhawks from somewhere in South America.

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I know what you mean Gil. Offensive and defensive avionics can be upgraded as can weapons, comm and nav. Seems to me though, that not much can be (cost effectively) done with the airframes and their aerodynamics. A-4s, T-38s, F-4s, French Mirages are all 55-65 year old aero-technology. Even F-15's basic aerodynamics were developed in the 1969-71 time frame. The prototype first flew in 1972. I'm no expert, but I'd be surprised if any of those jets can fly competitively against the 1980s and later designs with full fly-by-wire flight controls, thrust vectoring and capable of high dynamic pressure flight at higher angles of attack. Now if one of those private aggressor outfits bought and fielded a bunch of Russkie SU-29s....that would be interesting.....and expensive as hell !

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