The 412th Operations Support Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) hosted four A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 355th Wing out of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and small team of Airmen from the 821st Contingency Response Squadron out of Travis Air Force Base, California, to conduct Agile Combat Employment (ACE training), on Jun. 27, 2022, Giancarlo Casem, 412th Test Wing Public Affairs, explains in the article A-10 Thunderbolt IIs conduct ACE training on Rogers Dry Lake Bed.
“ACE is the faster way of doing things,” said Staff Sgt. Jordan Whitworth, 412th Operations Support Squadron. “You have an airfield manager that can upload and download aircraft and talk aircraft down from the ground so you can have a 10, 15, 20-man team doing a job of 100 or 150-man team and it’s a lot smaller footprint. So we can land it in a lake bed or a flat area in the middle of nowhere, set up, start landing aircraft in a few hours and take off before anybody even know it’s there.”
Adversary threats to Air Force operations at forward bases can deny US power projection, overwhelm traditional defense designs, impose prohibitive losses and lead to joint mission failure. To address these challenges, ACE shifts operations from centralized physical infrastructures to a network of smaller, dispersed locations or cluster bases.
Contingency operations may necessitate Airmen to utilize ACE concepts and operate in austere environments and Edwards AFB affords contingency response units, such as the 821st CRS, an area to hone and expand their capabilities to be Multi-Capable Airmen.
Rogers Dry Lake Bed took center stage during the ACE training. The lake bed is Edwards AFB’s most prominent natural landmark, and at about 65 square miles, it is visible from thousands of feet in the air. The dry lake’s natural hardened clay is able to withstand around 250 pounds per square inch. It is wide and strong enough to support space shuttle landings and other historic experimental aircraft such as the X-1 and X-15.
“Edwards gives us the perfect opportunity to use a pristine dry lake bed that is already being used for a test facility,” said Staff Sgt. Denver Davis, 821st CRS. “We can implement these concepts in a safe environment with facilities close by.”
Before the 821st CRS Airmen were able to land the 355th Wing’s A-10s on Rogers Dry Lake Bed, they assessed its condition and suitability for the mission.
“We assessed an airfield in an austere location,” said Staff Sgt. Denver Davis, 821st CRS. “We landed four A-10s from multiple approaches to verify we have the ability to integrate with fighter squadrons and attack squadrons.”
After the 821st CRS team successfully landed the A-10s, they once again inspected the lakebed runways, making note of the tire ruts created by the aircrafts’ landing gears.
Davis explained that the MCA skillset is vital for Airmen who may be deployed to different areas of the world, with different missions such as humanitarian aid or evacuations. The ACE training also further improves their MCA skills by allowing them to train with different aircraft types, something that Edwards AFB ground crews are adept at due to 412th Test Wing’s fleet of various fighters, bombers and cargo airframes.
As already reported, the Michigan National Guard hosted an agile combat exercise just east of Munising, Alger County, Mich. On Jun. 29, 2022.
The exercise featured several firsts including the first time a US Air Force aircraft had weapons (in the form of AIM-9 Sidewinders, JDAM bombs, AGM-65 Mavericks, rockets and targeting pods) loaded on a public highway. The weapons used in the exercise were inert.
The A-10 Warthog can be serviced and operated from austere bases with limited facilities near battle areas. Many of the aircraft’s parts are interchangeable left and right, including the engines, main landing gear and vertical stabilizers.
Specifically designed for close air support (CAS), its combination of large and varied ordnance load, long loiter time, accurate weapons delivery, austere field capability, and survivability has proven invaluable to the US and its allies.
Photo credit: Giancarlo Casem / U.S. Air Force
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