Eielson AFB, Alaska, will retain the 18th Aggressor Squadron and the unit’s 18 F-16s that play the role of mock adversaries in air-to-air combat training exercises, announced the Air Force on Tuesday. “Keeping them at Eielson proved to be the most operationally sound option, as well as the most cost-effective,” said Mark Pohlmeier, the Air Force’s acting deputy assistant secretary for installations. When the Air Force last August named Eielson its preferred site for hosting 48 F-35A strike fighters in the Pacific area, service officials decided to study whether to keep the aggressor mission there, too. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and Nellis AFB, Nev., were identified as alternative homes for the 18th AGRS. But, in the end, Eielson prevailed. Its proximity to the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex is “optimum to support” Red Flag–Alaska and Distant Frontier exercises, said Pohlmeier. The aggressor F-16s replicate the tactics of airplanes US and allied pilots could face in combat. (See also release from Alaska’s congressional delegation.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.