After much uncertainty in the last few years as to their future, the Pacific Air Forces’ only dedicated aggressor squadron, the 18AGRS, will remain at its current location. On April 14, Big Blue announced that Eielson AFB, home to the storied 354FW and subordinate 18AGRS, will keep their status as the northernmost US fighter wing.
According to the press release from the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, “once the Air Force made the decision to bed down the F-35 at Eielson, we had to re-assess the viability of retaining the aggressor mission at the same location. Keeping them at Eielson proved to be the most operationally sound option, as well as the most cost effective,” said Mark A. Pohlmeier, the acting deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations.
The Blue Foxes have dodged numerous proverbial bullets over the years, even surviving the 2005 BRAC which initially recommended shuttering the unit. That is, until the BRAC realized how nice it would be to have an aggressor unit at Eielson for Red Flag-Alaska, instead of having to bring in other AGRS units all the way up from Nellis. So the 18th picked up the aggressor mission in 2007, as they swapped jets with Kunsan’s 8FW. The 18FS then became the 18AGRS, using block 30 F-16s and were the first to sport the stunning arctic aggressor scheme (sorry Nellis!).
Apart from a 3-month standdown during sequestration, the 18th AGRS has stayed busy, taking their threat replication expertise on the road for various exercises around the Pacific in support of PACAF when they’re not playing red air at home. With Red Flag-Alaska taking place multiple times a year, it makes sense to keep a highly trained and capable aggressor force right where they are, underneath the airspace. With the addition of the F-35A at Eielson in a few years, the 18AGRS remains poised to further sharpen the edge of our combat aviators.