Aggressor Squadron F-16 Flies Into the Night, Ready to Give Pilots a Run for Their Money

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Back in the 1970s, the U.S. military kicked off something called the Aggressor program. After experiencing “high air combat loss rate” during the Vietnam War, the top brass decided it’s time for the country’s pilots to really learn how to fly and fight against enemies at least as gifted, technologically, as them.

The goal of the program was to pit pilots against what is called a professional adversary force in “intense dissimilar air combat training” scenarios. That adversary force meant pilots equipped with the same type of aircraft, flying against their opponents in mock combat exercises.

Tasked with acting as sparring partners are the so-called Aggressor Squadrons, with the 64th presently doing so. Deployed with the 57th Adversary Tactics Group at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, this group is currently flying about 30 F-16 Fighting Falcons, most of them painted in the colors of enemy or perceived-as-enemy nations, including Russia.

The shadowy figure of the plane you see here belongs to one of those Aggressor Squadron F-16s. It’s impossible to make out the colors on its body, due to the beautiful sunset backdrop, but the machine looks incredibly impressive even so.

The plane was captured on camera at the beginning of August by an U.S. Air Force (USAF) tech sergeant. It shows the plane, of the F-16C variety, taking off from Nellis for a nighttime training run during the Red Flag-Nellis 21-3 exercise. Its task was to take on pilots of the 414th Combat Training Squadron.

As for the F-16 itself, the plane barely needs an introduction. Into service since the 1970s, at about the same time as the Aggressor program, it is one of the most widespread military planes in the world.

It was not fielded by 64th since it arrived, though. The squadron used over the years a great deal of airplanes, including T-38s, F-5s, and F-15Cs.