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Air Force "bad guys" revel in 20-year milestone

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Aaron Ketcham
  • 310th Space Wing Public Affairs

Not all members of the U.S. Air Force Reserve get to be the “good guys.” At the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron’s barn-style headquarters, an antenna painted with the infamous Russian red star stands watch out front. Inside, a Soviet flag hangs from the rafters and a pictorial collage of Airmen dressed-up as adversaries creates a jarring aesthetic.

Their job is to pretend to be the bad guys and they have done so for more than 20 years.

Before the Air Force activated the 26th SAS on Oct. 1, 2003, the unit was already making a name for itself. Activated on May 26th, 1917, as the First Reserve Aero Squadron, they were the original Reserve squadron of the U.S. Army.

“This squadron came from humble beginnings,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Pinson, 26th SAS commander. “There have been so many people who contributed building this squadron from basically nothing to what it is today.  Preparing the joint warfighting forces is a huge undertaking and this squadron is readily taking on that challenge.”

Their mission became increasingly prevalent over the years as the impact of the aggressors proved to be critical in providing realistic combat training to Airmen and Guardians.

Today, the 26th SAS mission is to know, teach enemy threats to space-based and space-enabled systems during tests and training exercises. By using GPS and satellite communications jamming, as well as orbital warfare simulation techniques, they provide Space Force, Air Force, joint and coalition military personnel with an understanding of how to recognize, mitigate, counter, and defeat these threats.

“We replicate the adversary,” Pinson said.  “We replicate electronic warfare tactics, techniques, and procedures by using GPS and satellite communication jamming equipment that has largely been built-in-house by the 26th and 527th Aggressor teams. Our orbital warfare team is relatively new, and they primarily leverage software suites to simulate space to space engagements.”

The 26th SAS is unique in they have partnerships with two different Space Force squadrons, the 57th Space Aggressor Squadron and the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron. Both squadrons are a part of Space Training and Readiness Command’s (STARCOM’s) Space Delta 11.

“Our relationship with the 527th SAS is our longest standing relationship, and we are 100% integrated across all of our mission areas,” Pinson said. “Our relationship with the 527th, although nascent, is already synched across many of our mission areas. Our relationship with both squadrons epitomizes what it means to be total force integration.”

The 26th SAS, alongside the 527th SAS and the 57th SAS, takes part in multiple training exercises, monthly, to ensure forces are prepared for conflict.

“These exercises help our training audience learn what adversary may do,” said Pinson. “Then we will go back and debrief and figure out what we need to improve on and then the cycle repeats itself.”