EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
33rd Operations Support Squadron intelligence officers help train student pilots in suppression of enemy air defense missions during F-35A Lightning II initial qualification training between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, 2021, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
SEAD is part of offensive counter air missions, which are required syllabus items for student pilots before they can graduate from the F-35A graduate flying program.
“The mission itself dates back to F-105 fighters from the Vietnam War,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Evans, 33rd OSS intelligence officer. “Essentially, our jets are trying to, in some form, destroy or suppress integrated air defense systems or surface-to-air missiles.”
As part of the training, 33rd OSS intelligence officers are tasked with playing the part of the enemy to ensure our fighters understand how an adversary is likely to attack. Intel briefings during IQT serve as a baseline for 58th FS student pilots and are often their first introduction to enemy tactics.
“We are never going to tell the pilots how to fly their jets,” said Evans. “They understand their capabilities, and everything is situationally dependent, but we will talk about potential enemy actions, and pilots then create plans in an effort to counter adversary threats."
SEAD briefs occur during mission planning cells, where the pilots learn and plan for contingencies that can be experienced during combat.
“These missions are incredibly dynamic and require thorough knowledge of the enemy's capabilities to achieve success,” said Capt. Jonathan Lowell, 58th Fighter Squadron assistant chief of weapons. “Intel is an important member of the team and works tirelessly to provide information on the enemy. This allows us to perfect our tactics to ensure mission success.”
SEAD mission sets are vital for pilot training to ensure they are prepared to handle a wide variety of threats to further their understanding of enemy tactics and their own abilities to counter adversarial actions.
“It is important for the student pilots to be extremely proficient at SEAD missions because after graduation, students could be tasked with these missions in real life,” said Capt. Kyle Swartz, 58th FS instructor pilot. “It is one of our primary missions and something we pride ourselves on being the experts at.”
Suppression of enemy air defenses plays an integral role in airpower, which is defined as the ability to project military power through control and exploitation in, from and through the air. The first mission of an air force is to defeat or neutralize the enemy airpower so friendly operations in all domains can proceed. Control of the air is a necessary precondition for control of the surface.
Story has been edited to reflect accuracy in the first quote and the dates.