The United States Air Force announced that it would be reactivating the 65th Aggressor Squadron. For the first time since the aircraft entered service, nine F-35A Lightning II will be used to act as aggressors.

The 65th AS had been deactivated in September 2014 due to budget constraints. At the time, it was equipped with F-15C. The reactivation “will allow us to repurpose early production F-35s to help train Airmen for the high end fight,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.

Out of the 11 aircraft which will be transferred to Nellis Air Force Base, nine are early production fighter jets too old for operations. They will be used for training against fifth-generation combat aircraft. “These F-35 aggressor aircraft will keep us ahead of adversaries for years to come,” said Air Force Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein.

Both China and Russia are at least planning to introduce stealth fighter jets in their air forces with the J-20, the FC-31 for China and the Su-57 for Russia.

Earlier this year, several F-117 spotted in the skies of Panamint Valley, United States, had fueled speculations. Some already envisioned the creation of an aggressor squad using the old Nighthawks. But according to The Drive, the F-35 might be a way more interesting adversary in Dissimilar Air Combat Training. The plane’s software coupled with radar reflectors could become a perfect replica of other aircraft that USAF pilots may face on the battlefield.

The transfer of the F-35A should start by early 2022, after “newly produced aircraft arrive at Eglin AFB to replace them”. Another two F-35A should join the 24th Tactical Air Support Squadron at Nellis AFB for close-air support training, the intended main mission of the stealth fighter.

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The Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) received the last of its 63 second-hand Mirage F1 from the French Armée de l’air on March 2, 2019.