Gunfighter Flag 18-3, Adaptive Basing

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class JaNae Capuno
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Every quarter, the 366th Fighter Wing holds “Gunfighter Flag”, an exercise where the fighter squadrons participate in air-to-air and air-to-ground training to maintain F-15E Strike Eagles during peace-time and war-time contingencies.

Gunfighter Flag 18-3 featured a new opportunity for MHAFB to further its ability to fly, fight and win.

“Adaptive basing is the ability to rapidly refuel and re-arm F-15’s in an austere environment, a location we haven’t operated from before,” said Senior Master Sgt. Travis Patterson, 389th Fighter Squadron sortie generation superintendent. “It could have some support facilities or just a runway in the middle of nowhere.”

In other words; it gives a squadron the ability to practice their training in an environment unfamiliar to their own.

“The Air Force has become used to deploying to locations that we've been established at for a long time,” said Capt. Ryan Gipson, 391st Fighter Squadron pilot. “However, the enemy gets a vote and these locations may not be advantageous in whatever form the next conflict takes. The ability to project power globally is a staple of the U.S. Air Force and this is a way to further enhance that capability.”

Adaptive basing exercises require all levels of the squadron to deploy small teams of Airmen and aircraft for a short amount of time to hone their skills.

The concept is still fairly new and has been improving.

“This has been a crawl, walk, run initiative, with the crawl phase taking place last year,” Gipson said. “That was more a proof-of-concept, but took place at home station. The walk/run phase occurred during Gunfighter Flag 18-3 with us proving the ability to deploy to Gowen Field.”

During 18-3, Gunfighters from multiple squadrons teamed up with the 60th Air Mobility Wing from Travis Air Force Base, California, by traveling to Gowen Field in a C-17 Globemaster III, which gave them the chance to practice loading and unloading crucial assets needed to perform maintenance on F-15E Strike Eagles in a different location.

“As soon as the C-17 cargo doors opened, Security Forces secured the area and we were out the door recovering our Strike Eagles and turning them around,” Patterson said.

During the exercise, ammo and POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) operated in such a short time that it allowed Patterson’s team of Airmen to expedite aircraft recovery.

Both Gipson and Patterson are impressed with the how the various base agencies came together to plan and execute the mission.

“I'm excited for how this capability will expand in future iterations,” Gibson said.

With MHAFB being a Fighter Wing, it’s crucial to maintain readiness and adaptive basing exercises gives the base a tool to hone its flexibility.

“We're not always going to have the ability to have the support structure of a whole wing in contested environments,” Patterson said. “The battlefield has changed its location and it's up to us to be ready and provide the wing commander the flexibility required to perform our duties in any location at any time. With this small exercise we showed a small sample of how global we can be at a moment's notice with a small footprint.”

Patterson hopes that MHAFB continues this new training each quarter.

“This is another tool for the 366th Fighter Wing and just an extension of our operations and maintenance capabilities,” Patterson said. “The best part is this whole wing participating- it’s not just limited to maintainers and operators. It’s a great exercise for everyone.”