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Red Flag Alaska: Enemy propaganda and the pilots that pretend to be Russians

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 7:13 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Stationed at Eielson Air Force Base are F-16s - but for Red Flag, they are not normal F-16s. Referred to as Migs and Ivans, their job is to play bad guys during training mission. They make up the 18th Aggressor Squadron, known as “red air”. They help train “blue air”, the good guys, as they play war games in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.

“Our number one mindset always is to just be training blue and making them better,” said Captain James Heitmann, chief of training for the Aggressors.

He says they study and teach enemy tactics to blue air. “We will replicate, you know, fly those kinds of tactics that we see, so that our blue pilots - you know, the good guys, if you will, just the normal what you think of United States Air Force fighter pilots - are training against what is the most current and advanced threat, and they can be prepared for that.”

Heitmann said they aren’t just the bad guys when they are flying. “We are the bad guys so we try to work that into our day to day lives. So yeah, we have like communist flare and stuff all around our squadron or like the little star flags in our lawns and everything, so yeah we know that we are aggressors.”

Vice Wing Commander of the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Colonel Thomas Wolfe said training is important even outside of Red Flag Alaska. “It’s super important, so here in Alaska we have now four 5th generation fighter squadrons, so two at Elmendorf and two at Eielson. So what the Aggressors do, and what you got to experience today was training this fifth generation force for the future of sending these guys off to war. So we make them better every day.”

Heitmann said having the best pilots is important to the Air Force, “Having, you know, the better pilots is going to make a huge difference and be a deciding factor in a lot of cases in some kind of aerial warfare.”

This is the forth installment in our series about Red Flag Alaska. In the last story we went out to the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex where the 354th Range Squadron trains pilots from the ground. In the last instalment we will talk with some of the pilots from blue air about how Red Flag Alaska helps them.

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