By Senior Airman Adam Smith, 173rd Fighter Wing
Oregon Air National Guard F-15C Eagles, Airmen, and pilots flew across the nation to Eglin Air Force Base from May 1-15, 2021, to participate in the F-35A Lightning II B-Course training program as Adversary Air, commonly referred to as “Red Air”.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col Kevin Welch, TDY project officer, said the Eagle Drivers stayed busy while in Florida.
“We fly four jets in the morning, and four in the afternoon, against anywhere from two to four F-35s,” said Welch. “On the maintenance side, they’re helping us support that mission and making sure the jets are turning and flying every go.”
A total of 90.4 hours of flight time were logged during the trip, with over 56 sorties.
According to Welch assisting other units is extremely advantageous to both participating units, as well as to the Air Force as a whole.
“It’s very expensive to fly airplanes,” he said. “The ones that we bought, and that we use every day, to train our people with, we’d like to use those as ‘Blue Air’ [Friendly Aircraft], as much as possible.”
Welch added that if local aircraft are used for “Red Air”, it reduces the amount of training slots available for students, and drives up costs.
There are several methods that the U.S. Air Force uses to provide adversary air training without tying up training aircraft. At Kingsley Field, instructor pilots fly Eagles offensively in conjunction with Tactical Air Support, a civilian contractor which flies the F5 AT Tiger.
Other options available include dedicated aggressor squadrons and support from other fighter squadrons, such as Team Kingsley’s support to Eglin. This mix provides a wide variety of training opportunities and enables student pilots to practice against a mix of aircraft and pilots while keeping costs to a minimum.
“They haven’t fought the Eagle down here, so it was an opportunity for them to see and fight against the F-15,” Welch continued. “We also bring a ton of experience with the IP’s, and they get a chance to fight against the F-35, which we haven’t seen a lot of as well. We scratch each other’s backs, if you will.”
As the sound of jets roared overhead, Welch looked up and said, “That’s why we are here.”
He had nothing but praise for the performance of all the Airmen who made this mission possible.
“It’s been great, our hosts have been fantastic, and I think it’s been exciting for our Guard members to show up and get a chance to train against the Active Duty,” he effused, going on to say that the Airmen involved got a great chance to work in environments that they normally don’t normally see at home.
“The opportunity to come down here and train with the Active Duty and continue to get that experience, to get outside of our ‘Kingsley Bubble’, as comfortable and as great as it is, has really been a great part of this TDY.”