EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Finding a camouflaged enemy to “find, fix and finish,” can be difficult even in the best conditions. Add in the element of 14,000-foot peaks, dense vegetation and a 67,000 square-mile battlefield and takes a trained warrior to pick out the needle in this haystack.
With no GPS to guide a fighter pilot, finding the enemy or even the way home, makes locating that needle near impossible.
The first-ever Army Space Aggressor Soldier integrated with Airmen from the 527th Space Aggressors Squadron, and their Air Force Reserve component, the 26th Space Aggresor Squadron, from Schreiver Air Force Base, Colorado, to sharpen pilots’ skills by degrading aircraft GPS during RED FLAG-Alaska 16-3.
“Losing GPS in the air fight is like being in a physical altercation and getting punched in the jaw,” said Maj. Shauna Huber, the 26th SAS chief of mission support. “Losing perspective and orientation can have a dizzying effect. Any GPS-guided weapon is disabled and finding the target becomes a massive challenge. Being a space aggressor, you are that ninja in the dark waiting to strike and disable your foe. Unless you know what you are looking for, we are invisible.”
For Army Spc. Angel Mendoza, 4th Space Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, assigned as an operator to the 527th SAS, serving as one of these ninjas is one of the best things that has ever happened to him.
“This is one of the only opportunities for hands-on space operations in the Army,” Mendoza said. “Being the first in this capacity is a life accomplishment for me and makes me feel like I’m part of a family. Whether you are a colonel, captain, [noncommissioned officer] or a specialist, we are all operators taking care of each other and learning constantly. I watch their backs, they watch mine.”
With a vehicle filled with a helical antenna, two modems and an amplifier, these ninjas cause havoc for flying units visiting RF-A, teaching pilots to defend and attack in the simulated large-force deployed air operation.
“Billions of dollars go into putting a GPS satellite into orbit, and with minimal cost, an enemy can take it away,” Huber said. “Even an employee who isn’t looking to be tracked in their work vehicle has been known to block the corporate GPS tracking system. It’s a simple and effective tactic any enemy can use.”
During RF-A, pilots endure an exercise designed to simulate the first 10 combat sorties of a surge operation during a conflict. Training starts intensely and progresses into more dangerous scenarios with increased threats daily.
“This isn’t an exercise to take away the pilot’s chances of completing training; it’s an opportunity to place them in a situation they are likely to experience in a combat situation,” Huber said. “Knowing that we are providing a safe environment for pilots to learn to mitigate a bad situation is the best part of the being a space aggressor. We know we are giving them a tool that could potentially save the mission and their lives.”
Having the first space aggressor Soldier enhance the exercise pinpoints one of the main focuses of RF-A: integrating a multinational, joint team to work together to win the fight.
“One force, one fight,” Mendoza said. “Teaching people who rely on our expertise and doing it in a crawl, walk, run fashion is pretty cool to put it simply. I get to meet people who are unique and learn something new everyday, creating a trusting bond between nations and services. This is certainly something I’ve never seen, a bond-building exercise I hope to continue seeing in the future.”