U.S. Air Force 18th Aggressor Squadron Redesignated As 18th Fighter Interceptor Squadron

18th AGRS
File photo of a 18th AGRS F-16C with its Aggressor livery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Curt Beach)

The Fighter Interceptor Squadron designation, last used during the Cold War, underscores the unit’s renewed focus on the air defense mission.

The U.S. Air Force’s dedicated Aggressor unit in Alaska, the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, has been recently redesignated as 18th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, a designation that was last used during the Cold War. Although the service only announced it now, the redesignation happened during a ceremony on Feb. 2, 2024.

The new designation underscores the unit renewed focus on air defense, which has been going for a while now as the 18th AGRS complemented the F-22 in this role with a number of F-16 on Quick Reaction Alert duties since late 2022. The unit has been receiving upgraded F-16s Block 30 from the Air National Guard throughout 2023.

“The designation of the 18th FIS realigns our resources with the national priorities that drive the Department of Defense and Air Force mission sets,” said Lt. Gen. David Nahom, commander, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, Alaskan Command and Eleventh Air Force.

It’s unclear if the unit will also retain its Aggressor role, as the Air Force has made no mention of it in the press release. The service only said the redesignation allows the unit to organize, train, and equip for the primary combat mission of providing aerospace control for homeland defense missions in the Alaska Theater of Operations.

The photos released show two F-16s in the standard USAF grey livery at the redesignation ceremony. The aircraft database of the popular F-16.net website shows that the two jets are F-16s Block 30 which formerly belonged to the Colorado Air National Guard’s 120th Fighter Squadron and were reassigned to the 18th AGRS last year.

U.S. Air Force Col. Curtis Dougherty, commander, 354th Operations Group, addresses the crowd during the 18th Aggressor Squadron redesignation at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 2, 2024. The 18th Fighter Interceptor Squadron has a rich history dating back to 1939. The unit has been stationed in Florida, California, and during WWII the 18th FIS participated in combat in the Northern Pacific and the defense of Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Carson Jeney)

It is possible that the unit will employ both standard livery and Aggressor livery F-16s, with the former dedicated to the homeland defense mission and the latter dedicated to the adversary role. The 18th AGRS main mission was, in fact, to provide adversary training both to local units and during the Red Flag – Alaska exercises.

The story of the 18th FIS

The 18th FIS has a long history dating back to 1939, when it was first stood up and stationed in California. The unit saw combat in the Northern Pacific and defense of Alaska during World War II. It was later assigned to the air defense of the continental US from 1952 to 1971, before returning in Alaska where it was redesignated as Tactical Fighter Squadron and later Fighter Squadron, after which it took the adversary role.

“We’ve been a pursuit squadron, we’ve been a fighter squadron, and an aggressor squadron. Now we’re back to a FIS in the state of Alaska. It’s great to go back to that lineage, that history,” said Lt. Col. Albert Roper, 18th FIS commander.

In support of the 18th FIS, the 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron was inactivated and the 18th Fighter Generation Squadron was activated in its place. This change aligns the FIS capabilities with a supporting maintenance squadron. The 18th FIS is organized under the 354th Operations Group and the 18th FGS is organized under the 354th Maintenance Group.

“What the FGS construct does is ties the fighter generation squadron to their flying squadron or in this case, fighter interceptor squadron counterparts,” said Maj. Stephan White 18th FGS commander. “What that does is it links our missions and where they go, we go, making us more agile, and more effective at accomplishing the mission.”

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.