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ACC establishes task force to prepare for high-end fight

Photo of F-15's

Several F-15E Strike Eagles, assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing, sit on the ramp for AGILE FLAG 21-2 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, April 30, 2021. Air Combat Command developed the AGILE FLAG 21-2 experiment to create a lead wing, aligning squadrons from different locations under a single commander, enhancing their readiness as a team before deploying into a contested environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Betty R. Chevalier)

Photo of Airmen at Computer

U.S. Air Force members of the utilize computer communication systems during the Agile Flag 21-2 experiment at Naval Outlying Landing Field Choctaw, Florida, May 3, 2021. Air Combat Command developed the Agile Flag 21-2 experiment to create a lead wing, aligning squadrons from different locations under a single commander, enhancing their readiness as a team before deploying into a contested environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah Dowe)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --

Air Combat Command leadership has created a task force to tackle the challenge of preparing combat air forces for strategic competition with a near peer, as outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. 

ACC’s Campaign Plan working group will work to execute three primary lines of effort:

  • Implement a new combat air forces force generation model
  • Optimize wings for the high-end fight
  • Train Agile Combat Employment-capable forces

Years of low intensity combat in the Middle East, coupled with a force management construct not currently optimized for combat in a highly contested environment, has created an opportunity to drastically reform how ACC organizes, trains and equips its forces.

“Peer competition, crisis and combat does not provide us with ‘months’ to assess and study requirements, execute the RFF [request for forces] process, work sourcing, schedule deployments and eventually become a cohesive team,” said Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of ACC. “We have to generate high-performing combat teams before combat – and get them in place at the speed of relevance.” 

The task force’s primary effort is the creation of a new two-year combat air forces force generation cycle, with four distinct six-month phases designed to increase and sustain readiness. Forces will deploy as needed in the “Available” phase, recharge in the “Reset” phase, begin increasing readiness levels in the “Prepare” phase, and gear up to deploy in the “Ready” phase.

“This is part of ‘Accelerate Change or Lose,’” Kelly said. “If you don’t like change, you’re going to really dislike irrelevance and outright hate a kinetic defeat.”

In order to optimize ACC forces, the command is working to develop a standard for how a wing should be organized as they rotate through the new CAFFORGEN cycle, and finalizing mechanisms needed to assess readiness and certify wings for eventual deployment. This plan will impact expeditionary Airmen who physically deploy into a theater, as well as Airmen who deploy in place.

“Having 100 percent of our forces 100 percent ready is simply unsustainable,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Slocum, ACC director of air operations. “We’re creating a model that will provide predictability and sustainability for our Airmen, maintenance, and equipment. It will afford the time and space for our forces to achieve high-end readiness. This is what our nation requires for the current threat.”

Core to meeting the command’s third LOE of training ACE-capable forces is the lead wing construct, which changes the way some forces are organized for deployments. Lead wings will align, train, and exercise as an aggregated force package, enabling them to arrive in theater fully combat credible for employment by the air component commander. 

“The lead wing will provide theater commanders a wing-echelon unit that’s organized, trained, and equipped to generate combat power at the speed of relevance in a contested environment,” said Slocum. “We have traditionally deployed to fixed locations with well-established bases, which makes it easier for our adversaries to target, track, and even infiltrate our operations. ACE-ready forces will operate in quickly constructed locations with limited lead time and limited time on the ground. With ACE, we will deploy forward, conduct operations, and relocate forces before the enemy can react.”

Some of the smaller ACC cross-functional teams working efforts under the Campaign Plan umbrella include the FLAG Redesign, Multi-Capable Airmen, Air Base Squadron, and Lead Wing Command and Control working groups, among others.

“I’m excited to have our best and brightest working on these issues through the Campaign Plan effort,” said Lt. Gen. Christopher Weggeman, ACC deputy commander. “In order to truly have airpower anytime and anywhere, we have to get this right – this is the ACC staff’s number one priority.”