Air Force "Bad Guys"
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Aaron Ketcham
January 20, 2024
Not all members of the U.S. Air Force Reserves get to be the “good guys”. At the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron barn-style headquarters, a satellite painted with the infamous Russian red star stands watch our 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.
January 6, 2024 - Master Sgt. Ashley Bahley, left, and Maj. Trevor Butler, right, 26th Space Aggressor Squadron satellite communications operators, configure satellite jamming equipment at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado. The 26th SAS mission is to understand, teach, and replicate enemy threats to space-based and space-enabled systems during test and training exercises.(Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Ketcham.)
Before the Air Force activated the 26th SAS on October 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 and imitate 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 duplication 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 Operations Command’s Space Delta 11.
January 6, 2024 - U.S. Space Force Maj. Gen. Timothy Sejba, the commander of Space Training and Readiness Command, speaks with members of the 26th Space Aggressor, 14th Test and 379th Space Range Squadrons on Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado. Each of the squadrons Sejba spoke with fall under the Air Force Reserve Command’s 310th Space Wing and specialize in training Guardians and Airmen on military space operations. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Frank Casciotta.)
“Our relationship with the 527th SAS is our longest standing relationship, and we are 100% integrated across all of our mission areas,” Pison 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.”
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