Soviet Aggressor Program

7-17-2013 11-40-37 AM

Most readers will already be familiar with the famed US Navy “graduate level” ACM program, TOPGUN (yeah, that’s one word, all caps) and the USAF’s Fighter Weapons School and the Red Flag exercises. During the Cold War did the Soviet Air Force have a similar program. That’s indeed the case and that the topic of this post.

Due to very poor showing of Soviet built aircraft in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Soviet Union began a program generally known with the Soviet Air Force as The Center for Flight Personnel. The Center was located in Turkmenistan at an airbase called Maryy-1 (Maryy is pronounced “Marie).

1521st AB AM BadgeLocated at this base is a unit known as the 1521st Airbase unit. The 1521st consisted of 3 squadrons, 2 that would be considered “aggressor” units both flying the MiG-29 and an additional unit that operated the La-17 drone for target practice for the visiting Soviet Air Force units.

The squadrons of the 1521st was formed in 1974 and flew the MiG-21bis. Pilots for these squadrons contained a higher number of highly experienced pilots (distinctions of combat pilot experience in Soviet forces at the time were known as “First Class” and “Sniper” level pilots). These units had a higher proportion of these highly experienced pilot when compared to regular Soviet Air Force units.

Generally, the syllabus used by the units at Maryy-1 consisted of 5 parts:

-assessment of individual pilot skills.

-low level flying over the area’s featureless terrain for aircrew familiarization.

-ACM and QRA performance assessment.

-tactical excerises involving multiple aircraft.

-live missile launch and gunnery.

It should be noted that the Soviet Air Force had no TACTS system with which to provide real-time monitoring of aircraft involved in ACM (such as that used by the USAF and US Navy). All training was monitored in real time over the radio using a GCI from the 1521st and another controller from the visiting unit.

Soviet Air Force regiments’ results reflected on it’s graded readiness level and as expected getting a perfect score in the evaluation was very difficult.

Aggressor Fulcrum 1 Aggressor Fulcrum 7 The 1st Squadron of the 1521st initially flew the MiG-21bis and then the MiG-29 Fulcrum-C. The tips of the horizontal stabilator and the wingtips were painted yellow, with a black outline, to make the aircraft look like the F-15 Eagle. To keep up that appearance, angled black converging in a black and yellow chevron were applied aft of the cockpit. Sharkmouth markings were also added to aircraft based on ground crew preference.

Aggressor Fulcrum 47-17-2013 11-39-00 AM The 1st Squadron markings consisted of saber-toothed Tiger with a winged number “1.” The current status of this squadron is not known.

MiG-23MLD Aggressor 7-17-2013 11-40-13 AM7-17-2013 11-39-44 AM The 2nd Squadron of the 1521st first flew the MiG-23MLD. There were plans to reequip the squadron with the Su-27 Flanker but instead received high-time MiG-29 airframes. These aircraft also featured sharkmouth markings with other marking consisting of a “sour-faced” hornet superimposed on a red lightning bolt with the letters “AM” (aviabaza Maryy, airbase Marie) above it.

Aggressor Fulcrum 3

Aggressor Fulcrum 2

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 2nd Squadron’s aircraft were transferred to the Kazakstan Air Force.

There really isn’t a lot of open-source information, either from books or the DTIC publication database. According to these sources there isn’t even references to these squadrons in Soviet defense publications.

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9 Comments

Filed under Airplanes, Outside the Box, Red Flag, USAF

9 responses to “Soviet Aggressor Program

  1. Buck

    MOST interesting, Mav, and I thank you for it.

  2. Bill Brandt

    Wow. I don’t know where you get all of this information but it is fascinating. I wonder how realistic their training was? I think the US programs were as close to combat – and as dangerous – as they could get.

    • themavf14d

      Based on the research I’d say pretty realistic given the lack of TACTS/ACMI. I imagine they found a way adapt.

  3. Bill Brandt

    Thanks for posting this Mav . I can remember during the Cold War learning anything about Soviet aircraft or tactics was like learning about something from Mars – remember Victor Belenko?

    • themavf14d

      Funny you should mention him. I met him when I was in college. I had the chance to chat with him for a few hours over dinner.

    • Soon after Victor Belenko pulled off his amazing defection, our intelligence officer on the Connie suddenly adapted a new persona for our daily briefs. Complete with fur hat (where did he get that in the middle of the Pacific?) and large red star, our “guest briefer” was none other than Bickter Bellycough, who had caustic comments on everything we were doing or planning to do. With a really bad Russkie accent. Kept us laughing and kept our attention.
      We were required to read daily secret stuff as the US learned more and more about the MIG 25 Victor gifted to the world. We thought we had the inside track on the scoop until the COD landed with the latest issues of Aviation Week. The magazine had most of the same “secret info” almost word for word.

    • Bill Brandt

      The one thing that surprised me about this MiG 25 – reading about it – was that all the avionics were tube – not solid state. Typical Soviet engineering – simple – but effective.

  4. AFMom

    Very interesting. I was an International Politics back in the day so I love learning about these things. Thanks!

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