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The 414th Combat Training Squadron; Nellis AFB, March 6 – 9, 2017

Exercise Red Flag 17-2, part 2; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The 414th Combat Training Squadron (414th CTS) is an American Air Force unit which is assigned to the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base in the American state of Nevada. The 414th CTS is an important non-flying organization that is specialized in offering the famous Red Flag exercises to train modern combat pilots.

The 414th CTS is since 2005 the non-flying unit which takes care of the Red Flag exercises. The Red Flag exercises are realistic air defense exercises involving the air force of the United States and its NATO allies and other partner countries. The exercise is often performed on the large Bombardment & Gunnery Range near Nellis AFB. The 414th CTS organizes a series of advanced training programs managed by the Air Warfare Center at Nellis AFB. The 414 CTS coordinates the missions and flights of the F-16 Fighting Falcons which are flown by the 64th Aggressor Squadron and in the past the F-15 Eagles which were flown by the 65th Aggressor Squadron. The F-16s emulate the MiG-29 "Fulcrum" and its flight characteristics during these training exercises. The F-15 squadron has already been disbanded, but the aircraft of this unit emulated the Su-27 "Flankers" in the past. Also the deployment of Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) during the exercise is coordinated by the 414th CTS. The deployment of these missiles is realized by the 507th Air Defense Aggressor Squadron. In addition to facilitating the exercise, the 414th CTS also provides the correct diagrams and schedules for the course of the exercise. This means that the build-up of the exercise from the first to the last day is prepared in advance by the 414th CTS. This schedule is fully adapted to the participants which will participate in the war scenarios.

The history of this unit starts late in the Second World War when the 414th CTS was established as the 414th Night Fighter Squadron in Florida in 1943. After training the pilots of this unit, the unit became for the first time active during the North African Campaign where the unit would be part of the Twelfth Air Force (12th Air Force). The squadron was specialized in escorting the bombers during the night bombing of German targets in North Africa. The unit was deployed in Algeria during this period and was initially equipped with the British Bristol Beaufighter. This aircraft was used for

the defensive night patrols above friendly territory. Only later the unit was deployed during nightly bombing of targets in Algeria and Tunisia. After the fall of the German occupation in North Africa, the 414th NFS moved to Italy. Here the aircraft of the unit would carry out bombings on important positions in Sardinia and Corsica. Late in the war at the end of 1944, the 414th NFS would join the Ninth Air Force in Belgium during the operation of the Battle of the Bulge. The squadron was for this operation equipped with the Lockheed P-38L Lightning which was equipped for night-time operations. These aircraft were equipped with the AN/APS-6 radar and had adapted radio equipment. After the Second World War the squadron was disbanded in June 1945.

In the more than 22 years which followed, the unit did not exist. Only on August 22, 1969, the 414th Night Fighter Squadron would be re-activated. This time the squadron was re-established under the name 414th Fighter Weapons Squadron (414th FWS). The actual activation of the 414th FWS took place on October 15, 1969. The unit was then reactivated at Nellis AFB in Nevada. The 414th FWS became the successor of the 4538th Combat Crew Training Squadron at Nellis AFB at the moment of activation. The 414th FWS became part of the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing. Later this wing would be referred to as the 57th Tactical Training Wing. The 414th FWS was equipped with the McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II during its establishment. The unit became an important training squadron for the future F-4 Phantom pilots of the United States Air Force. The 414th FWS would mainly take care of the combat training of this group of pilots. Initially, the Phantoms of this unit wore the tail code WD, but soon the tail code WA was taken over from the other units at Nellis AFB in October 1971. Eventually the F-4E Phantom entered service at the 414th FWS. At the beginning of the 1970s, the characteristic tail band was also taken into use at the various units of the USAF. This was also the case for the 414th FWS. This unit, like the other units on Nellis AFB, received the yellow with black checkered tail band. From March 1, 1976, the 414th FWS would take care of the tasks of facilitating the Red Flag exercises. At the end of 1981, the unit was disbanded again, because this task was handed over to the USAF Fighter Weapons School.

It would now take more than 10 years before the unit was reactivated. The squadron was finally founded on November 1, 1991 in its current form at Nellis AFB. The new squadron was established at that moment under the name 414th Composite Training Squadron (414th CTS). The squadron was assigned to the 57th Wing Operations Group. The 414th CTS would be equipped with the F-16C Fighting Falcon. The main task of the squadron was to facilitate the Red Flag exercise, which from this point on would become the most important training for the young USAF pilots. In 1993, the name of the unit was changed to the 414th Training Squadron and in 1994 the current name 414th Combat Training Squadron was eventually adopted. The F-16s which were assigned to the 414th CTS would mainly fly in the role of aggressor. In the 1990s, for the first time, the camouflage patterns were adopted, especially from the major Russian fighter aircraft. The squadron would continue to fly with the F-16C Fighting Falcon up to and including 2005. The tasks of aggressor and facilitator within the Red Flag exercises were too diverse. From 2005 onwards, it was decided to split the 414th CTS into the organizational part of Red Flag under the current name 414th CTS, and the 64th Aggressor Squadron which would take over the aggressor role. The 414th CTS has therefore no aircraft in use since 2005 and is therefore only facilitating the Red Flag exercises. Nowadays, the unit organizes a Red Flag exercise on Nellis AFB more than five times a year.

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