Air Combat Command (ACC) is making plans to establish a new, dedicated, Close Air Support (CAS) F-16 squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada, under the 57th Operations Group.
The new squadron will likely utilize Block 40 aircraft aircraft coming from Hill AFB as the 388th FW re-equips with F-35As. The new squadron will be part of a new CAS Integration Group under the 57th Wing, and would be a tactical air support squadron, initially fielding eight F-16s, expanding to 16 primary assigned aircraft (PAA) once the squadron reaches full operational capability.
The CAS Integration Group’s mission will include high-end training as well as an increased emphasis on tactical level CAS, with experts to integrate fires in joint operations, advancing the joint CAS enterprise and preserving the USAF ‘CAS culture’. Gen ‘Hawk’ Carlisle, commander of ACC said: ‘The changes we’re making at Nellis are an important step in refining our CAS skills through future generations of Airmen so we can continue to provide ground forces with all the advantages airpower brings to close combat.’
The new unit would be involved in the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Qualification Course, USAF Weapons School, ‘Grren Flag’ and ‘Red Flag’ exercises, building on the current Weapons School course at Nellis.
The news release also said that the 57th OG would also ‘leverage geographically separated contract light aircraft as cost-effective augmentation to enhance JTAC training with Air Force fighter aircraft’. This may refer to a new contracted requirement for light aircraft to offer lower-cost JTAC training. Draken International, is currently in a one-year test-phase of contracted aggressor services at Nellis.