TopGun Aggressor Squadron Training



An aggressor squadron or adversary squadron (in the US Navy and USMC) is a squadron that is trained to act as an opposing force in military wargames. Aggressor squadrons use enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures to give a realistic simulation of air combat (as opposed to training against one's own forces). Since it is impractical to use actual enemy aircraft and equipment, surrogate aircraft are used to emulate potential adversaries. The first formal use of dissimilar aircraft for training was in 1968 by the Navy Fighter Weapons School (better known as "TOPGUN"), which used the A-4 Skyhawk to simulate the performance of the MiG-17. The success of formalized Dissimilar air combat training (DACT) led to transition of Navy Instrument Training Squadrons equipped with the A-4 into Adversary Squadrons at each Master Jet Base. The USAF followed suit with their first Aggressor squadrons at Nellis AFB equipped with the readily available T-38 Talon.

US aggressor squadrons fly small and low-wing loaded fighters that are used to represent those of the potential adversaries. Originally Douglas A-4s (US Navy) and Northrop F-5s (US Navy, Marines, and Air Force) were flown along with T-38 Talons that were immediately available and served as placeholders until new F-5E/F Tiger II aircraft were introduced. The Navy and Marine Corps briefly operated 2 squadrons of F-21 Kfir Adversaries at NAS Oceana (VF-43) and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma (VMFT-401). These were eventually supplemented by early-model F/A-18As (US Navy) and specially built F-16Ns (for the US Navy) and F-16A models (for the Air Force). Starting at the end of 2005, the USAF has started using the larger and faster F-15 Eagle as an aggressor aircraft alongside the F-16 at Nellis Air Force Base. Nellis will soon receive a total of 24 Eagles to be used in adversary training.

Aggressor aircraft in the United States are typically painted in colorful camouflage schemes, matching the colors of many Soviet aircraft and contrasting with the gray colors used in most operational US combat aircraft. Camouflage schemes that consist of many shades of blue (similar to those used in Sukhoi fighters) or of green and mostly-light brown (similar to the colors used in many Middle Eastern countries' combat aircraft) are most common.

Aggressor squadrons in the US armed forces include the USAF 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson AFB, the 64th and, until it's inactivation in September 2014 the 65th Aggressor Squadrons at Nellis AFB, the US Marine Corps' VMFT-401 at MCAS Yuma and the US Navy's VFC-12 at NAS Oceana, VFC-13 at NAS Fallon and VFC-111 at NAS Key West, as well as the famous "TOPGUN" Naval Fighter Weapons School (US Navy) which is not a squadron per se, but operates F-16A and F/A-18A/B/E/F aircraft as part of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC) at NAS Fallon. With the exception of the NSAWC aircraft, all the US Navy and US Marine Corps adversary squadrons are Reserve Component units and aircraft belonging to the Navy Reserve and the Marine Corps Reserve.