U.S. Air Force Stands Up New F‑16 Aggressor Squadron

U.S. Air Force Stands Up New F‑16 Aggressor Squadron


The War ZoneThe 706th Aggressor Squadron reflects a still-growing demand for more advanced red air adversaries and greater numbers of them.
USAFThe U.S. Air Force recently converted a reserve squadron into a new aggressor unit equipped with F‑16C Viper fighter jets. The redesignated 706th Aggressor Squadron will focus on replicating threats posed by older fourth-generation fighters. However, its creation reflects a broader ongoing surge in demand for “red air” adversaries to support training and test and evaluation activities, especially those capable of replicating newer fifth-generation threats like China’s J‑20 stealth fighters.The Air Force Reserve’s 926th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada held a ceremony to mark the transition of the 706th from a fighter squadron to an aggressor squadron on May 5, with the change officially taking effect on May 14. Nellis is already home to the active-duty 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons. The Air Force has a fourth fighter jet-equipped aggressor squadron, the active-duty 18th Aggressor Squadron, at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.A pair of the 65th Aggressor Squadron’s F‑35A Joint Strike Fighters. USAF “As Nellis’ third aggressor squadron, the 706th’s mission focuses on continuing to know, teach, and replicate fourth-generation aggressor air adversaries,” according to an Air Force release about the squadron’s conversion earlier this year.Prior to this, the 706th’s primary mission had been to oversee Air Force Reserve pilots assigned to the United States Air Force Warfare Center (USAFWC) at Nellis. In this role, the unit notably had no aircraft of its own. As part of its conversion to the 706th Aggressor Squadron, it is now set to receive a fleet of F‑16C Viper fighters by the end of this year.“The shift in mission set [for the 706th] allows the 64th and 65th AGRS [Aggressor Squadrons] to pursue the next generation of air defense and Nellis’ endeavor towards becoming the 5th Generation Center of Excellence,” according to the Air Force’s recent release.It’s worth noting here that while the 65th flies stealthy fifth-generation F‑35A Joint Strike Fighters, the 64th is equipped with F‑16Cs. This might raise a question of whether the 64th may now be in line to transition to the F‑35A and transfer its Vipers to the 706th in the process. However, this seems unlikely given the demand elsewhere for F‑35As and the Air Force has stated the 706th is set to receive Block 30 F‑16Cs, rather than the newer Block 42 Vipers the 64th has been receiving already.F‑16C Vipers assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. USAF An F‑16C assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron, but with “926 OG” written on the tail, was used as the backdrop for the 706th Aggressor Squadron redesignation ceremony. 926 OG stands for 926th Operations Group, to which the 706th is assigned. That being said, this aircraft, which has the serial number 86–0251, has been marked in this way since 2019. This was done as part of an effort to highlight the so-called “associate” relationships between Air Force Reserve units assigned to the 926th Wing and active-duty elements at Nellis.F‑16C serial number 86–0251 at the redesignation ceremony for the 706th Aggressor Squadron. USAF The War Zone has reached out to the Air Force for more information about its aggressor plans at Nellis.Regardless, the conversion of the 706th to an F‑16-equipped aggressor unit comes amid a spike in demand for red air adversary support across the U.S. Air Force, as well as the rest of the U.S. military, in recent years. This, in turn, reflects a broader shift in focus across …

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