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‘Red Air’ preps Lightning

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Litteral
  • 33rd Fighter Wing


The F-35A Lightning II training syllabus encompasses several training components over eight months. As part of the program, student pilots must complete air-to-air combat training against aircraft simulating adversary air, commonly referred to as ADAIR or Red Air. 


Typically, enemy aircraft are simulated by F-35A instructor pilots alongside F-1 Mirages out of Tyndall Air Force Base. From May 3-14, visiting F-15C Eagles from Kingsley Field, Oregon, took on the role of “Red Air”.


“The 173rd Fighter Wing hosts the F-15C b-course at Kingsley Field, so they essentially have the same mission we have here,” said Capt. Alexander Cox, 58th Fighter Squadron flight commander and instructor pilot. “They were able to send some of their instructor pilots here to participate in sorties going on for the last few weeks.”


The F-15Cs were able to work alongside 33rd FW F-35As in a controlled environment, showcasing the capabilities of the F-15C under the experience of seasoned pilots.


“The F-15Cs worked well as ADAIR against our F-35A aircraft for two reasons,” said Cox. “One, the F-15C is a competent platform, and two, these pilots have been flying for many years and have a lot of experience they can bring to the table in both ‘Blue’ and ‘Red Air’ tactics.”


The F-35A instructor and student pilots were able to allocate more time flying sorties as “Blue Air,” or allies, while the F-15Cs took on the role of “Red Air”.


“The F-15Cs supplemented the role of enemy aircraft, so it let us complete multiple student sorties without having to allocate our jets to ‘Red Air,’” said Cox. “We were able to execute more student sorties with the additional assets.” 


The advantage of experienced ADAIR support wasn’t the only benefit of the visit. The F-35A student pilots were able to talk with veteran pilots about their own experiences as fighter pilots.


“It’s been excellent getting to see the different perspectives they bring since they are also IPs out of the F-15C b-course,” said Capt. John Toner, 58th FS student pilot. 


The visit aided in the sharing of knowledge, skill and experience between force generators of different airframes, bolstering our next-generation Air Force pilots.