Airmen exercise Agile Combat Employment during Red Flag Alaska

Red Flag Alaska, US Air Force F-15 Eagle, USAF 67th Fighter Squadron
A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle assigned to the 67th Fighter Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, taxis at Allen Army Airfield during Red Flag-Alaska (RF-A) 19-3 at Fort Greely, Alaska, Aug. 8, 2019. This was the first time the agile combat employment concept was integrated into RF-A operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaac Johnson)

There are many features of the Indo-Pacific theatre that make it stand out from the eight other major Air Force commands; perhaps the most evident is its size and water-to-land ratio. 

With most of the land area consisting of small islands and thousands of square miles of ocean between, finding an opportunity and location to perform maintenance operations can be difficult. 

The U.S. Pacific Air Force’s solution to this unique challenge is the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept, which was exercised during Red Flag-Alaska (RF-A) 19-3. 

67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Allen Army Airfield, Red Flag-Alaska, F-15 Eagle
U.S. Airmen assigned to the 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Kadena Air Base, Japan, prepare an F-15 Eagle for takeoff at Allen Army Airfield during Red Flag-Alaska 19-3 at Fort Greely, Alaska, Aug. 8, 2019. During the exercise, Fort Greely was used to implement agile combat employment, which allows aircraft maintainers to perform maintenance operations in remote locations with as few people as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaac Johnson)

“The ACE concept is basically having a jet land [at a remote location], then a team of maintainers re-arms and refuels the jet and sends it back into the fight as quickly as possible,” said Master Sgt. Edmund Nicholson, 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) project officer for RF-A. 

Executed properly, maintenance Airmen are able to operate in remote environments with minimal resources, enabling them to better support continuous operations and project airpower from anywhere in the Pacific.

The scenario during RF-A 19-3 had two F-15 Eagles land at Fort Greely, Alaska, where four maintenance Airmen from the 67th AMU awaited their arrival.

“This was a test to see if units could operate out of an austere location where you don’t have your typical infrastructure like fuel trucks, maintenance and logistics,” said Capt. Loren Keisling, 353rd Combat Training Squadron team lead for RF-A 19-3. 

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Kadena Air Base, F-15 Eagle at Allen Army Airfield, Red Flag-Alaska 19-3
U.S. Airmen assigned to the 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Kadena Air Base, Japan, launch an F-15 Eagle at Allen Army Airfield during Red Flag-Alaska 19-3 at Fort Greely, Alaska, Aug 8, 2019. During the exercise, Fort Greely was used to implement agile combat employment, which allows aircraft maintainers to perform maintenance operations in remote locations with as few people as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaac Johnson)

With less than one hour on the ground, a crew of four re-loaded simulated munitions, offloaded approximately 8,000 pounds of fuel and launched the F-15 back into the fight. 

According to Nicholson, the scenario was a resounding success and proved an invaluable learning tool for his team.

“If we’re in the middle of the Pacific and our pilots need to land on an island to refuel, this is what we will have to do. This is the first time I’ve been involved in an exercise where we practiced this concept, and I think it went very well. We accomplished what we set out to do; we learned a lot along the way, and we’ll only get better from here,” said Nicholson.

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