Upcoming local combat exercise to test 388th FW readiness capabilities

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Airmen from the 388th Fighter Wing will test their agile combat employment and readiness capabilities during an exercise here later this month.

The exercise, which has been in the planning stages for months, will mirror similar off-station exercises, like Agile Flag and Bamboo Eagle, but will take place at Hill AFB and airfields in the region. Participating alongside the 388th FW’s F-35As in the week-long exercise will be F-15s, B-1s, E-3s, EA-18s, C-17s and KC-135s.

This is the first time an agile combat employment exercise will be part of a local large force exercise, conducted simultaneously from Hill, said Capt. William Jaundalderis, who is helping to plan the exercise with the 388th FW Inspector General team.

“Due to current global postures, ACE is a concept we’re embracing and training for,” Jaundalderis said. “To keep the enemy from targeting all of our forces in one place, we have to be prepared to deploy, pick up and move to multiple locations, operate from them, and meet up in the airspace.”

During the exercise, a main force will operate and fly from Hill’s alert facility, while smaller teams of Multi-Capable Airmen will disperse to contingency locations and operate there for 24-72 hours. They will all be under constant threat of attack from cruise missiles and small arms fire.

“Most of the Airmen don’t typically defend themselves, the base, the aircraft while they’re doing their normal job,” said Jason Herron, 388th Fighter Wing director of inspections. “They won’t just be maintaining, troubleshooting, loading, fueling, and launching jets, they’ll also be protecting themselves and their aircraft.”

A large part of successfully carrying out dispersed operations is also overcoming disabled or degraded communications.

When Airmen and jets are scattered around the theater, with various and scarce resources, ensuring the entire team is on the same page during the fight is a huge challenge for the mission commanders. Who has what? Where are they? How are they best utilized in the fight? 

“Communications degrade. Pilots could be tasked with landing and flying from these contingency locations and joining the fight without knowing where they’re going or what they’re targeting until the get to the airspace,” said Herron.

The 388th Fighter Wing has been preparing for and training to different forms of agile combat employment operations for years, and as Multi-Capable Airmen and Ready Airmen Training become standardized across the Air Force, the wing’s exercises will continue to expand to meet those requirements.

“This is the first time locally we’ve done something to this scale,” Herron said. “It’s been a crawl, walk, run approach and as we proceed through the iterations of these exercises, they will get more complex.”