Locked and Loaded F-16 Fighting Falcons Play the Aggressors, Refuel From “Enemy Tankers”

For purposes of training, some military pilots have to play the bad guys in scenarios being carried out during exercises. This has been a practice for decades in the world’s militaries, but few of these organizations are as advanced at this as the U.S. Air Force (USAF).
F-16 Fighting Falcons with the 18th Aggressor Squadron 23 photos
Photo: USAF/Master Sgt. Joey Swafford
F-16 Fighting Falcons with the 18th Aggressor SquadronF-16 Fighting Falcons breaking away from KC-135 StratotankerF-16 Fighting Falcon over U.S. Central Command area of responsibilityF-16 Fighting Falcon over the Nevada Test and Training RangeF-16 Fighting Falcons chasing KC-135 StratotankerF-16C Fighting FalconF-16 Fighting FalconF-16C Fighting Falcon taking off from New JerseyAggressor Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon taking offRoyal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16F-16 Fighting Falcon in Operation Inherent ResolveF-16 Fighting Falcons over Niceville, Florida
Ever since the days of the Second World War, when nations captured aircraft of their opponents, pilots have been training to defeat them. The Americans were not the first to establish specialized training units using captured planes (that honor belongs to the Germans and British), but at the present moment they are the most organized in this respect, deploying highly-skilled pilots in so-called aggressor squadrons.

Presently, these groups no longer use MiGs, and have not ventured into deploying Chinese fighters, but they rely on American-made airplanes to simulate enemy engagements instead, more specifically the highly versatile and widespread F-16 Fighting Falcon.

There are several of these aggressor squadrons currently deployed with the USAF, and we’ve featured one of them, the 18th, several times before. Like all other units of this kind, its mission is to oppose the USAF as if they were the enemy, helping pilots hone their combat skills.

Given how this is just a role, though, aggressor pilots have to use the facilities of their imaginary foes to keep operating, and that at times leads to aircraft wearing liveries of some imagined or real enemy nations coming in for aerial refueling, for instance.

The two airplanes in the main photo of this piece, F-16 Fighting Falcons deployed with the 18th, were snapped during exactly such a refueling mission. With missiles dangling from their wingtips and external fuel tanks further down, they are seen here approaching a KC-135 Stratotanker of the 909th Air Refueling Squadron to get their fill.

The image was captured in mid-February, when the planes were taking part in the Cope North 22 exercise over the Pacific Ocean.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows other F-16s.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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