NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada –
The United States Air Force Weapons School conducted its largest-ever over-water joint counter maritime exercise as part of the USAFWS integration (WSINT) phase of its curriculum Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 over the Pacific Ocean.
More than 80 joint aircraft and U.S. Navy surface assets partnered to demonstrate Agile Combat Employment principles in a maritime environment to simulate real-world threats and challenges USAFWS students may face in conflict with a pacing competitor in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.
“The Air Force's most highly trained operators and instructors successfully conducted this landmark event in cooperation with our joint warfighting teammates,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Goodman, 57th Wing commander. “Disaggregated combat airpower converged from multiple ACE locations enabling joint, integrated long-range fires and effects at the time and the place of our choosing, providing our Weapons School cadre invaluable lessons learned that depict the way we fight a maritime-capable adversary.”
This WSINT maritime exercise illustrates application of ACE concepts, namely synchronizing Air Force and joint capabilities from non-traditional sources and disaggregated locations to accomplish the mission. Naval Air Station Miramar, NAS Navy North Island, NAS Fallon, San Clemente Island and Edwards AFB, California all played key roles in enabling the event’s success.
“Step one to victory in the Pacific is to show up to the fight, and ACE demonstrates our ability to do that,” said Col. Daniel Lehoski, USAFWS commandant.
The successful joint application of ACE in this event underpins and reflects how U.S. forces would employ capabilities with a coalition of allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Using the airspace over water off the coast of California increases the realism and relevance of partnered training related to the pacing challenge focus in that region.
“The large airspace forces the students to develop plans to overcome the tyranny of distance, enables us to practice engaging vessels, allows us to integrate with friendly surface combatants, and forges bonds with our compatriots in the U.S. Navy who we will fight alongside in the Pacific,” Lehoski said.
A particularly noteworthy application of ACE concepts during the event involved the C-17 Globemaster III performing forward arming and refueling point support for other combat aircraft, including the B-2 Spirit.
“Developing and practicing the procedures to refuel combat aircraft using gas from C-17s provides our logistics teammates additional options to get all of our aircraft into the fight,” said Lehoski.
The future of Weapons School integrations will involve continued modernization of airspace and integration over the water and with the Navy.
“A fight in Indo-PACOM is a maritime fight,” Lehoski said. “It is our responsibility at the Weapons School to produce graduates who have both the capability and confidence to build, teach, and lead in the joint, maritime environment.”
The U.S. Air Force Weapons School trains tactical experts and leaders to control and exploit air, space and cyber on behalf of the joint force. Every six months, the Weapons School graduates approximately 150 Weapons Officers and enlisted tacticians who are system experts, Weapons Instructors, Advanced Instructors, and leaders of Airmen.
“The graduates of class 22B are ready to lead the counter-maritime fight,” Lehoski said. “It is now their responsibility to continue to ensure their squadrons are prepared to fight in the maritime environment and that their units are ready to fight and win tonight.”