Archive for the ‘Air Force’ Category

AFSOC Hosts Security Force Assistance Air Advisor Summit

Tuesday, June 6th, 2023


Hurlburt Field, Fla. –Key members from across the Security Force Assistance and Air Advisor enterprise gathered here for a summit, 23-25 May.

The purpose of the summit was to gather expertise to plan and propose a way forward for cross-functional, Air Force-wide Security Force Assistance capabilities that can support higher-level guidance and Combatant Commander objectives and campaign plans.

The conference kicked off with opening remarks from Maj. Gen. Albert G. Miller, Headquarters U.S. Air Force Director of Training and Readiness, and included Col. Jocelyn Schermerhorn, AFSOC Director of Operations, Dr. Sean McFate, a foreign policy expert with a focus on National Security Strategy, and Ms. Beth Grill, RAND Corporation national security policy analyst.

During her remarks, Schermerhorn emphasized the importance of foundationally getting the structure of Air Advisors across the formation right.

“The strategic environment we’re in today is much different than the place we’ve operated for the last 20 years,” said Schermerhorn. “We have an opportunity to make sure that we get this right as we develop a sustainable capability from the ground up. We’re looking to your expertise to ensure that we get there.”

The National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy details the need to develop diplomacy with our partners and allies – an area that SOF forces are uniquely suited to support.

“If we get this right, we’ll have a more deliberate, requirement-focused enterprise that spans across our formation with a significant return on investment,” said Schermerhorn.

Speakers, panelists, and audience members hailed from a variety of areas, such as International Affairs at Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army Security Force Assistance Command, Air Force Materiel Command, 621st Air Mobility Advisory Group, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron, 36th Tactical Advisory Squadron, and several others.

The summit concluded with an out brief that detailed findings and made recommendations on a way forward for senior leaders to consider as they’re making decisions.

“Based on the work that I saw this week and the feedback we got from our senior leaders during our out brief – I’m confident that we were able to work together to propose a way forward that accomplishes the mission,” said Col Magill, Headquarters Air Force, Mobility Air Forces Division, air advising cross-functional manager. “Ultimately, we’re bringing back some great proposals that should integrate partners by design, enabling day-zero interoperability and combined effects.”

By Ciara Travis

AATC Tests Enhanced Intelligence Gathering Capabilities with MQ-9 Reaper Upgrade

Monday, June 5th, 2023


The Air National Guard-Air Force Reserve Command Test Center partnered with the 174th Attack Wing and 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron to test an upgraded satellite communications capability of the MQ-9 Reaper during exercise Northern Edge 2023 at Eielson Air Force Base.

Northern Edge 23 is a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command-sponsored, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces-led, multilateral, joint field training exercise at main operating bases Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson AFB.

The MQ-9 is a remotely piloted aircraft primarily used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Air National Guard pilots, using the SATCOM upgrade, can now fly ISR missions in real-time almost anywhere around the world from remote bases in the United States.

The MQ-9’s upgraded SATCOM system uses advanced satellite technology to transmit data and communications over long distances. It is capable of flying at high altitudes for extended periods and its sensors can provide real-time intelligence on adversary positions, movements and activities. The ANG plans to deploy the upgraded MQ-9 to support ongoing operations around the world, as well as for training exercises and other missions in support of U.S. national security objectives.

“The speed at which this modernization effort and test program has been accomplished highlights the Accelerate, Change, or Lose vision from General Brown,” said Maj. Ryan Nastase, Test Program manager.

“This SATCOM upgrade will allow pole-to-pole operations while increasing the amount of data or bandwidth the MQ-9 can transmit and receive by more than double and reducing the latency or time of transmission by a factor of 10.”

Maj Ryan Nastase, Test Program Manager

With the upgraded SATCOM capability, the MQ-9 can continue to modernize by integrating more advanced sensors that require increased bandwidth. The upgrade enhances the aircraft’s ability to provide real-time situational awareness to combatant commanders around the world.

“This upgrade is a game-changer for the MQ-9 and the Air National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Harris, Hancock Field ANG Base test pilot at Syracuse, New York. “We can better support our combatant commanders and provide critical intelligence in real-time.”

The SATCOM upgrade is one of many advancements being fielded on the MQ-9. The ANG and its partners are continually working to enhance the capabilities of these critical assets and provide combatant commanders with the best possible support.

by SSgt Van Whatcott, 162nd Wing Public Affairs

AFSOC’s Second Summit Tackles How to Instill Mission Command

Saturday, June 3rd, 2023


Air Force Special Operations Command’s second Mission Command Summit concluded its three-day event on May 18 with the goal to generate how to instill a culture of mission command across the formation.

During the first summit, the team developed the philosophy of mission command which empowers our commanders and subordinates to execute assigned missions using some or all of the seven joint functions. Those missions are assigned by commanders via mission-type orders that ultimately enable subordinates to operate competently and confidently.

This summit provided an opportunity to connect key stakeholders from DAF, joint and ally counterparts to have candid conversations about the vision for mission command in AFSOC’s new force presentation construct. 

“Our future operating environment looks very different than how we’ve fought over the last three decades and our adversaries have been paying attention to that,” said Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC commander who provided opening remarks for the summit. “We’ve become on reliant on our global reach, active FOBs (forward operating bases) and centralized command/decentralized execution. For us to be successful, we need to shift our focus to the control piece, which is mission command.”

He expanded on the “how” and laid out the aspects that surround mission command: mutual trust built through exercises, ensuring clear commander’s intent, having an aggressive but disciplined mindset, a higher tolerance for risk and building competence.

“Developing mission command across our command will take more than writing doctrine or policy,” said Bauernfeind. “This is why we’ve established the headquarters A7 and are establishing the Air Commando Development Center this summer. This will allow us to focus that energy to synchronize and coordinate the training, education, exercising and experimentation that are required to develop the competence around mission command. And competence leads to the first aspect of mission command, mutual trust.”

This is yet another change AFSOC is tackling to prepare Air Commandos for the future operating environment. The command has been a pathfinder for the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. C.Q. Brown Jr.’s five drivers for change across the force: AF Force Generation, Agile Combat Employment, Multi-capable Airmen, wing A-staff implementation and now, mission command.

Moving forward, the 492 Special Operations Training Group and A7 are outlining actions and owners for the identified barriers to normalize mission command in AFSOC formations and updating the Mission Command Toolkit to rollout the next version at Commando Rally scheduled for June 2023.

“There’s no denying that this is a heavy developmental effort across the Air Force, but here in AFSOC, we’re up for the task,” said Bauernfeind.

By 2nd Lt Cassandra Saphore, AFSOC Public Affairs

Pacific Air Forces Airmen Test Next Generation Aircrew Protection Equipment

Thursday, June 1st, 2023


If you’ve spent time in the Indo-Pacific region, you’ve likely heard the term “Fight Tonight” more than once and for good reason. Pacific Air Forces Airmen are on the forefront of operations in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, and these operations come with a need to be ready, diverse, innovative and lethal.

We have been charged with challenging the status quo, operationalizing resourcefulness and adopting concepts and technologies that drive the readiness, resilience and lethality of the force.

One of the most recent advances added to the PACAF portfolio involves the U.S. Air Force Next Generation Aircrew Protection, or NGAP, effort.

Airmen with the 15th Wing and 154th Fighter Squadron on Hickam Air Force Base tested and trained on the F-22 Raptor using the innovative Step-Launch and Recover, or SLR, concept of operation and the critical data provided by the NGAP effort. SLR allows for the aircrew to safely generate sorties in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear, or CBRN, contaminated environment.

“The ability to confidently operate in less-than-optimal conditions is vital for our aircrew,” said Gen. Ken Wilsbach, PACAF commander. “SLR and NGAP capabilities ensure our ability to fight tonight with an enhanced level of protection for our Airmen who may be operating in a CBRN-threatened environment.”

The current solution for pilots is to use the Aircrew Eye and Respiratory Protection System, which was initially developed during the Gulf War and is not agile enough to allow for scaled protections against current CBRN threats. The legacy mask ensemble risks degradation to aircrew performance and combat effectiveness due to its bulk and impact on dexterity. While this is the current solution for most ejection seat airframes, the F-22 doesn’t have an effective CBRN mask—making it even more essential to innovate to find an adaptive solution for our warfighters.

This new process uses the modified M-50 ground crew mask—the same one that’s used with Mission Oriented Protective Posture, or MOPP, gear—and two-layer nitrile gloves worn under the standard flight glove and allows aircrew to safely execute take-off and landing procedures in a chemically contested environment without the thermal burden and loss of dexterity.

“This method of CBRN protection provided me not only the dexterity but also the visibility I needed while in the cockpit,” said Capt. Alex Moss, 19th Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot.

The concept of SLR was originally generated by a series of events set in motion during the North Korea pressure campaign in 2018. 

“The ability to use an innovative science-informed concept like SLR immediately restored combat capability options in a CBRN contested environment to our Indo-Pacific Command commanders,” said Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Rios, PACAF Command Aircrew Flight Equipment lead. “This is the type of flexibility that provides game-changing combat power and removes options from our near-peer adversaries to degrade our capabilities.”

Based on a need to unencumber the pilot, a team of cross functional experts from Headquarters Air Force A10, PACAF, Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Combat Command, the Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch, the Joint Program Executive Office for CBRN Defense, and numerous other organizations began looking at the ability of the on-aircraft environmental control system—or air conditioner—to remove and purge chemical vapor contamination from the cockpit

“The assumption was that if a chemical vapor threat could be purged and mitigated, the pilot could fly with a decreased level of protection,” said Col. Paul Hendrickson, Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch Materiel leader. “The initial findings were positive, and the NGAP effort was launched to characterize the environments our pilots and aircrew could face in order to allow for the creation of risk-informed operational techniques and new materiel solutions.

To date, the joint team has tested F-15, F-16, F-22, A-10 and C-130 aircraft and provided the data to commanders to allow them to make risk-based decisions based on the threat, ultimately transitioning the aircrew to the aircraft without additional contamination.

The team at Hickam AFB tested this process for the F-22. The pilot donned protective gear and the M-50 mask, went to the aircraft, purged the simulated contaminants before removing the mask, and simulated conducting a mission before reversing the process and going through an expedited decontamination line

“Using science and technology to ensure we are developing the right materiel solutions for the future fight is a game-changing mentality,”  said Steve Singleton, Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch NGAP program manager. “It gives us huge flexibility as materiel developers to develop pertinent solutions at the speed of relevance to protect the warfighter and support mission effectiveness.”

Throughout the F-22 SLR testing procedure, all involved were notating any shortfalls or limiting factors for further examination.

“The ability to work directly with the warfighter to provide relevant and mission enhancing information that allows them to conduct their operations safely while maximizing protection in a chemical environment is a huge win for the work the team has done over the last five years,” said 1st Lt. Gunnar Kral, Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch, CBRN aircrew protection lead engineer.

The events at Hickam AFB were capped off with the opportunity to showcase the successful efforts of all involved to the commander of PACAF, highlighting how these practical, risk-based decisions are allowing his wing commanders to Fight Tonight.

“These operationally relevant capabilities give commanders decision superiority to generate combat sorties safely in a chemical environment while maximizing aircrew performance,” Hendrickson said. “This is something that can truly help shape how the warfighter fights over the next decade. The work we’re doing here will save an Airman’s life.”

By TSgt Hailey Haux, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs, and Col Paul Hendrickson Air Force CBRN Defense System Branch

Some photos by MSgt Mysti Bicoy

AFSOC Uses Video Game–Like Simulation Training, Adds Realistic, World-Wide Value

Tuesday, May 30th, 2023


Imagine you’re at home, playing your favorite online warfighting video game with friends from different parts of the country –each with a different contribution to the overall effort. Your goal? Mission success!

After eight months of planning and mission rehearsal, all five U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) components did just that for the first time in conjunction with the 16th annual Air Force Special Operation Command (AFSOC) hosted Emerald Warrior exercise.

Connected virtually across six separate geographic locations, SOF participants “gamed” using a mix of local, distant, and virtual players. Specifically, the players included an AC-130J (constructive) and MQ-9 crew from Hurlburt Field, MQ-9 and CV-22 crews from Cannon AFB, a MH-60 crew from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and three groups of Joint Terminal Attack Controller’s from Naval Special Warfare, Marine Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operations Command.

The objective was to capture and collect all information from a person of interest to eliminate a threat against the U.S. and our allies within a constructed virtual environment.

“This was a USSOCOM initiative we were able to turn into a reality and yet another pathfinding step towards SOF components being able to fully exercise in a distributed mission operation (DMO) network,” said Mr. Bill Spicer, Emerald Warrior virtual planner.

The AFSOC Air, Space and Information Operations directorate, or A3, and EW planners led the effort from the 492d Special Operations Wing Operations Center and aircraft simulator facilities.

“Future technology continues to challenge current training capabilities with the introduction of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed/extended reality, “said Lt. Col. Heather Demis, C-146 pilot and DMO chief of readiness training. “While there are rigorous cyber security requirements and minor occasional technical issues between software and hardware compatibility, once connected, the simulators allow for streamlined joint and combined interoperability.”

These devices can be connected across the world to ensure the warfighter can train, exercise and implement tactic, techniques and procedures (TTPs) in any environment to prepare for real-world events and missions.

“The future of DMO events will include extended reality for any AFSOC platform in a network exercise through the newest AFSOC Emulator System which is currently projected to be on network for Bold Quest, a joint staff test and evaluation event,” said Demis.

With this notable success, AFSOC hopes to continue to push the envelope for DMO with more participation worldwide across not only SOF units but also allies and partner nations in training our warfighters to succeed on any battlefield. 

“Now that we are in the era of strategic competition, we must adapt and look for opportunities to innovate and transform to remain the most capable, most lethal Air Force in the world,” said Demis. “And with wins like DMO…. that’s exactly what AFSOC is doing.”

By 2d Lt Cassandra Saphore, AFSOC Public Affairs

AOC FTU Augments Austere Challenge 2023

Monday, May 29th, 2023

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – The 505th Training Squadron sent air operations center subject matter experts to Ramstein Air Base to support U.S. European Command’s execution of exercise Austere Challenge 2023 from May 5 – 12 to practice coordinating a response to a fictional major crisis.

The exercise brought together military and civilian personnel from EUCOM forces and its components to contribute virtually across Europe in the weeklong command post exercise. U.S. Army Europe-Africa, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe/Africa, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, and U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Africa participated alongside an additional 11 North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, partner nations.

Building on the augmentation the 505th Command and Control Wing provided to U.S. Air Forces in Europe following the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, the 505th Training Squadron continues to provide training, advising, and assistance to support 603rd AOC execution.

“As an instructor in our systems administration course, my job is to ensure our students are prepared to manage and perform defensive cyber operations in support of combatant commander priorities,” said Master Sgt. Donald Keefer, 505th TRS systems flight chief, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “The lessons learned from this exercise, and the operational experience I received, will directly impact the 1,600 students we graduate annually here at the 505th Training Squadron and send to air components around the world.”

In addition to cyber defense expertise, the 505th Training Squadron also sent personnel with expertise in combat airspace and command and control battle management operations. As the AOC Formal Training Unit, the 505th Training Squadron routinely sends subject matter experts to support air components during exercises and real-world contingencies.

The intent of Austere Challenge 2023 was to prepare ready forces, validate strategic access, exercise deterrence principles, and integrate and synchronize with the NATO alliance.  

“The expertise we have in this squadron is unmatched. We routinely leverage opportunities to participate in combatant command exercises to better prepare the joint force, allies, and partners to execute large-scale combat operations,” said Lt. Col. Jason Gossett, 505th Training Squadron commander. “Additionally, participating in these events ensures our instructor cadre remain proficient in operating the AOC Weapon System.”

The 505th Training Squadron is responsible for preparing graduates to operate the AOC Weapon System, graduating more than 1,600 joint and coalition personnel annually. Additionally, the squadron teaches 13 initial qualification courses in the weapon system, including an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Course, a Joint AOC C2 Course, and an academic instructor course. Graduates from the 505th Training Squadron serve in all combatant commands.

By Deb Henley

505th Command and Control Wing

Public Affairs

509th Weapons Squadron Supports SOF exercise, Prepares for WSINT

Sunday, May 28th, 2023

Airmen from the 509th Weapons Squadron integrated with the 14th Weapons Squadron providing air refueling for a special operations forces exercise at Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 7-10.

The purpose of the training for the 509th WPS was to expose its students to the Special Operations mission set and to prepare its students for their large-scale Weapons School Integration capstone exercise where all weapons schools come together and perform peer-to-peer combat to perfect their skills.

“The tanker’s mission means that it’s always an asset that is integrated with other operations,” said Lt. Col. Ian Shelley, 509 WPS commander. “This exercise allows our students to integrate with the special operations mission set. They develop tanker tactics to best support air players who are providing air support to ground units. They integrate not only with air players, but with Army and Navy ground units.”

The exercise also provided the 509th WPS Airmen a chance to integrate with other weapons squadrons and their weapons systems to execute the mission. Some units that also participated in the training include the 14th WPS AC-130J Ghostriders, MC-130J Commando IIs, U-28 Dracos, and CV-22 Ospreys.

“SOF operates in a unique manner, one that most of our students haven’t experienced before,” Shelley said. “The integration opportunity provides tanker and SOF units with a broader set of tools preparing them for future combat operations.”

One of the key points of the training included the students having to work together to create an effective mission plan in order to meet the objective of the exercise.

“Not only did the students plan air refueling and fly the KC-135, we also had students who planned and witness tilt rotor air refueling on board an MC-130 and we had others who were heavily integrated in forward arming and refueling point operations whereby the lessons learned can be applied to future agile combat employment operations,” Shelly said.

The 509th WPS is one of 21 weapons squadrons and is the only weapons school for the KC-135 Stratotanker, with a mission of providing the world’s most advanced training and tactics to pilots, navigators and inflight refueling specialists.

“We develop aviators who are steeped not only in peer threats and tanker tactics, but also critical thought and problem solving,” Shelley said. “Their expertise in other platforms and mission sets makes them experts in employment operations.”

Training for the 509th WPS is designed to prepare Airmen to analyze and apply appropriate tactics to possible pacing threats, and ensure they are ready for tomorrow’s fight anytime, anywhere.

Story by SSgt Lawrence Sena, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

28 IS Fusion Cell Support Grand Slam for Full Spectrum SOF at Emerald Warrior 2023

Friday, May 26th, 2023


Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) wrapped up its 16th annual Emerald Warrior exercise May 6, 2023. The exercise provided realistic and relevant, high-end pre-deployment training, encompassing multiple joint operating areas to ensure preparedness of Special Operations Forces, Conventional Force enablers, Partner Forces and Interagency elements. This year’s exercise locations included Hurlburt Field, Homestead Air Reserve Base and Puerto Rico.

Five Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 28th Intelligence Squadron were key players in the event. The Airmen were critical to the success of the Intelligence (J2) Fusion Cell’s work. The Fusion Cell pushed out multiple “articles, tweets, and social media posts” regarding a massive earthquake destroying key infrastructure in Puerto Rico. This event became the first of many injects requiring the deployed Joint Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) and units to make decisive decisions on behalf of the nation and partner nations.

“Synchronizing Information Related Capabilities across Intelligence, Information Operations, Cyber, Space, and Public Affairs SMEs (subject matter experts) allowed us to further educate our SOTG and SOTU (Special Operations Task Unit) commanders on the capabilities they can provide when down range, said Maj Jessica Vogle, the 28 IS’s assistant director of operations, who served as the Emerald Warrior J2 and Fusion Cell lead.

Vogle went on to say, “Whether it be the utilization of cyber effects to create complex dilemmas for our adversaries, space capabilities to get a site picture of the operation area or using Information Operations and/or Public Affairs to get strategic messaging out into the public, fusion cells create operational effects in the information environment and strategic advantage for AFSOF, our allies and partners through unique access and placement.”

In Emerald Warrior 23, the Fusion Cell led and processed 90 Requests for Information, 498 Red Cell injects, 11 Publicly Available Information roll ups, four spot reports, seven tear lines and eight additional J2 products.

The 21st Special Tactics Squadron completed pre-deployment qualifications for Air Force Force Generation model readiness posture. Four missions were executed during the course of the event: Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief, Integrated Deterrence, Information Operations/Cyber.

445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs