Photo Caption: A U.S. Air Force crew chief from 389th Fighter Squadron receives an F-15E Strike Eagle from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, after arriving at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 24, 2020. The 389th FS is participating in Agile Flag 21-1, which is an experimental exercise that tests the new lead wing command design for deployed environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Andrew Kobialka)
Air Combat Command’s 366th Fighter Wing from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, tested its ability to deploy as Air Combat Command’s first lead wing during Agile Flag 21-1, Oct. 21-29.
During the exercise, the 366th FW employed mission generation, command and control, and base operating support-integrator elements from its main operating base at Tyndall AFB, Florida, while supporting a forward operating base at Hurlburt Field, Florida, and a contingency location at Eglin AFB, Florida.
Mountain Home deployed F-15Es from the 389th Fighter Squadron and the 5th Combat Communication Group from Robins AFB, Georgia, provided the communications infrastructure for all three operating locations. The 505th Command and Control Wing from Hurlburt Field, Florida, provided C2 training and a lessons learned team.
These units came together to demonstrate and exercise how a wing-level organization projects combat airpower within an agile C2 structure.
The 505th CCW’s 505th Training Squadron and 705th TRS C2 instructors from Hurlburt Field, Florida, provided academic training to the 366th FW’s commander and his air staff before Agile Flag 21-1, and C2 table-top training during the experiment at Tyndall AFB, Florida. The trainers also answered questions and provided over-the-shoulder suggestions and considerations for operational C2 execution to the 366th FW’s leadership.
“The 505th Command and Control Wing provided critical training and feedback before, during, and after Agile Flag 21-1, allowing the Gunfighters to understand how wing-level command would continue to communicate and function in a contested environment,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Rick Goodman, 366th FW commander. “Their expertise is helping shape the development of lead wing concepts in complex, joint, and an increasingly uncertain global environment.”
The C2 training provided participants a baseline understanding on how the Air Operations Center operates, the operational documents an AOC uses for execution, some basic targeting information, and a lesson on conditions based authorities to use when communication with the other units is degraded by enemy forces.
The experiment required the 366th FW to execute the mission while connected and disconnected from the AOC.
“The ability for a lead wing to execute while being disconnected from an AOC is important because we know the enemy will attempt to disrupt communications. In a peer or near-peer fight, units will not be in continuous contact with the AOC to receive guidance,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Francisco Gallei, 505th Test and Training Group commander. Hurlburt Field, Florida. “Units below the AOC will have to understand the JFACC’s [joint force air component commander] intent and guidance and what is in the Air Operations Directive, enabling them to operate within that framework and execute the authorities delegated to them until they regain connectivity and can resync with higher headquarters. Our team here at Hurlburt Field plays an integral part in training and educating Airmen about these concepts, giving them the tools necessary to execute when connectivity is lost.”
The 505 CCW’s LL Team participation in Agile Flag 21-1 was two-fold. First, to validate the C2 training met the objectives of the exercise as executed. Secondly, to observe Agile Combat Employment in practice to develop further operational tactics, techniques, and procedures for AOC personnel.
“Additionally, the LL team members collected observations to better inform the 505th CCW on how ACE is evolving better to integrate it into the wing’s training mission,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jack Staudt, 505th CCW operations officer.
The 505th CCW’s participation in Agile Flag 21-1 focused on ACE applications that bridged execution from the operational level to the tactical level.
“As lead wing experimentation grows and becomes more complex, operational planners known as multi-domain warfare officers, Thirteen Oscars, are able to advise decision-makers on how the different domains can be integrated,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kari Mott, 705th TRS director of operations, Hurlburt Field, Florida
“Having operational planners help develop ACE is critical to ensure it can be executed smoothly in the future by exposing wings, who generally work at the tactical level, to the operational level of warfare,” according to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Christianson, 705th TRS commander.
“To align future forces with the 2018 National Defense Strategy and the ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ vision of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., the 505th CCW continues to drive the discussion on how command and control will be done in the future,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Dickens, 505th CCW commander. “We must maintain decision superiority in a great power competition, with or without access to various levels of C2, which we can experiment, test, and validate in exercises like Agile Flag,”
Agile Flag 21-1 was the first iteration of this type of exercise, with plans for more in the future.