Story by SrA Isaac Johnson on 06/20/2019The primary objective of RED FLAG-Alaska is to provide realistic training for pilots by pitting them against simulated adversary air assets.
Allowing Airmen to train against a simulated threat and get a feel for a near-peer adversary's tactics, techniques and procedures is not a simple task, but one that is enabled by a highly specialized group of Airmen called "baron controllers."
As experts in enemy aerial battle tactics, they help replicate these threats in order to teach others how to combat them.
"Barons control aggressor aircraft and help them to maneuver the way an adversary would," said Tech. Sgt. Wesley Miller, 18th Aggressor Squadron baron controller. "We're kind of like the quarterback and the pilots are the running backs and wide receivers."
For every iteration of RF-A, a Blue Air team consisting of relatively inexperienced pilots has certain training objectives and milestones that must be met. In order to meet them, a Red Air team typically comprised of pilots from the 18th Aggressor Squadron acts as an adversary force against which the Blue Air team can practice.
"The fundamental difference between what we do versus other (F-16 squadrons) is that we solely support Red Air," said Capt. Solange Douglass, 18th AGRS B flight commander. "We take information from different sources and use it to replicate Red Air control to the best of our ability."
Due to the nature of their job, 18th AGRS baron controllers require a plethora of experience which makes them some of the most highly-qualified Airmen in their field.
"People who are assigned to the 18th AGRS are typically very experienced blue controllers; I was an instructor blue controller before I came here," said Miller. "When you get here it's almost like going to another formal training for six months to a year just to be proficient and qualified."
These experienced controllers play a key role in providing adversary tactics, techniques and procedures necessary for pilots on the Blue Air team to get the most out of each sortie and leave RF-A as more experienced pilots.
"This is such an awesome mission," said Douglass. "It's very rare that the career fields that make up baron controllers are ever in the same squadron as fighter pilots, and that makes this job special."