Nellis Air Force Base: Home of the Integrated Warfighter

A sign at the entrance to Nellis Air Force Base welcomes visitors to the U.S. Air Force Air Warfare Center. Gone are the words "home of the fighter pilot." (Marcus Weisgerber/Staff)

If you think the U.S. Air Force is not taking the current warfight seriously, come to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas and simply drive through the front gate.

Home to the Air Force Warfare Center and Weapons School — aka the service’s version of Top Gun — it’s not uncommon to see fighter jets roaring off the runway and heading north to the Nevada Test and Training Range where they prepare for World War III.

But it’s what you don’t see or hear, literally, which is signaling this major cultural shift in the Air Force, the branch of the military that has spent the past four years searching for its identity.

Nellis has long been know as the “home of the fighter pilot,” and in case you didn’t know that, there was a sign at the front gate to reminded you. Until now.

That sign is gone and so is much of that fighter-dominate attitude.

The service — long-run by zoomies — has changed and painstakingly embraced the other tools it brings to the fight, namely space, cyber warfare and even unmanned aircraft. Airmen who work in these areas are now routinely at Nellis integrating their craft into the one-time, fighter-only exercises, like Red Flag.

The opening slide of Col. Larry Bowers’ briefing about the Air Force’s Air Warfare Center naturally had a picture of a jet, but it also included a satellite and some ‘trons paying homage to the cyber mission.

“It’s a shift in our mentality,” Bowers, the head of operations, plans and requirements at the Warfare Center, said in an interview. “Our focus is clearly on multi-domain warfighting, not just an airborne fight.”

Bowers – a weapons systems officer, most recently in the F-15E Strike Eagle – called this shift a “huge transitions in my opinion.”

For more on the shift, check out this week’s cover story.

Marcus Weisgerber
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Marcus Weisgerber

Senior Pentagon Correspondent at Defense News
I write about broad-ranging policy, acquisition and budget issues affecting the US military.
Marcus Weisgerber
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