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.