An extremely crucial part of that is the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). It is known as the crown jewel of the Department of Defense. “There isn’t another place in the continental United States to be able to do what we can do here,” said Col. Cameron Dadgar, Commander of the NTTR.
Col. Dadgar says the NTTR is the perfect place for airmen at Nellis Air Force Base, and across the U.S. Air Force, to prepare for battle. That is because it is roughly the size of the State of Maryland and there is no air traffic above it. “What that allows is full use of this air space,” Col. Dadgar said.
Airmen do everything at the NTTR, from flying in formation to simulating missile and bomb drops.
“They are able to now actually go out and do their techniques, their tactics, their procedures to the full extent against an adversary that most best replicates what they might face in combat,” Col. Dadgar said.
The NTTR was first established following the Vietnam War. Through studies known as the Red Baron Reports, the U.S. Air Force realized young airmen lacked enough training against realistic rivals. “The first step was to create that air space and that ground infrastructure to do that,” Col. Dadgar said.
One group of aircraft that truly utilizes the Nevada Test and Training Range is the Aggressor Squadron — planes which essentially pretend to be our enemies in the air.
“We also have to be experts in enemy hardware, enemy tactics,” said Lt. Col. Jan Stahl, Deputy Commander of the 57th Operations Group, which oversees the Aggressors at Nellis Air Force Base.
Aggressors are modified F-16s that emulate the latest threats against the United States. Their capstone event is the Red Flag exercise, which is hosted at the Nevada Test and Training Range. Once complete, airmen flying against the Aggressors are considered ready for war.
“Red Flag is where we throw the whole kitchen sink at them. In other words, the entirety of the threat spectrum,” Lt. Col. Stahl said. “We’re going to challenge them in every single way, shape and form that we possibly can.”
But Col. Dadgar says the NTTR needs improvements, as our adversaries continue to crank up their capabilities.
“They’ve become more lethal. The ranges have become farther and farther out,” Col. Dadgar said.
Col. Dadgar says the realistic training at the NTTR is in jeopardy. The hope is to get increased access to the lands toward the Southern part of the NTTR.
“[The NTTR] needs to be expanded to better be able to replicate what our adversaries can do.”
Their goal is to keep the airmen at Nellis Air Force Base — and across the country — at the forefront of the future fight.