Ace in the Hole [Rapid Deploy PACAF Fighters]

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Unread post19 Apr 2017, 08:53

Ace in the Hole
May 2017 Amy McCullough

"PACAF’s new validated concept—Agile Combat Employment—has changed the front lines in the Pacific Theater.

The threats and operational environment in the Pacific Theater have been evolving rapidly. China is ramping up military activity in the South and East China seas, North Korea is growing more aggressive with its ballistic missile launches and development program, and Russia is deploying more long-range aviation assets to the area and flying them in a more aggressive manner.

That’s why Pacific Air Forces recently validated a new concept called Agile Combat Employment, or ACE. It is intended to ensure all forward deployed forces are ready for a potential contingency with little notice....

...The command tested pieces of ACE with the recent deployment of F-22 Raptors to Australia in February for the Avalon Airshow in Geelong.

Twelve F-22s from the 90th Fighter Squadron at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, flew to RAAF Base Tindal, Australia, a typical forward operating base. From there, two F-22s proceeded to the much smaller RAAF Base Townsville, where they conducted a bare-base operation, said O’Shaughnessy. The goal was to exercise the ACE concept of operations “by concurrently conducting fifth generation fighter operations from a main operating base and a forward, austere operating base,” according to PACAF.

Staying Connected
The fifth generation fighters brought just one C-17 and one KC-135 with them. After landing, however, as a support team established mobile secure communications with the 613th Air and Space Operations Center (AOC) at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, maintainers refueled the F-22s on the ground from the C-17’s wing tanks. O’Shaughnessy said under ACE it is possible the Navy or Army might provide fuel bladders to refuel the fighters, noting the concept also can be applied to F-15s, F-16s, or allied aircraft.

In addition to carrying the necessary equipment for the Raptors, the C-17 can be used for command and control, ensuring a mission commander is always connected. During the recent deployment to Australia, O’Shaughnessy said an F-22 pilot rode on the C-17 and remained in constant contact with the 613th AOC. At one point, the pilot received a retasking order from the AOC and relayed that information to the Raptors.
The C-17 also carried missiles that were unloaded once the contingent landed, and crews practiced loading them onto the F-22s. “The pilots used the secure communications to finalize mission planning and launched again in less than three hours to return to RAAF Base Tindal,” according to an ACE fact sheet provided to Air Force Magazine.

O’Shaughnessy said PACAF can take advantage of pre-positioned stock or it could land a joint force, such as Marine Corps or USAF F-35s.

Bringing in the F-35
Brig. Gen. Craig D. Wills, Pacific Air Forces director of strategic plans, requirements, and programs, said USAF has tested the ACE concept on a “very limited basis with F-35s” assigned to Hill AFB, Utah—the Air Force’s first operational unit—during a deployment to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Although the service is currently focused primarily on introducing the F-35 in to the fleet, Wills said the command intends to expand the “scope and scale” of the F-35’s participation in ACE in the coming months and years.

ACE provides more flexibility by enabling US forces to operate just about anywhere in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, even though there may not be a lot of established infrastructure or the environment may be contested...."

Source: ... -Hole.aspx
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