OKINAWA, Japan –
The U.S. Air Force’s ability to rapidly generate airpower at a moment’s notice was put to the test at Kadena Air Base, when the 18th Wing conducted a no-notice agile combat employment exercise Sept. 22, 2023.
Airmen from the 18th Wing partnered with deployed Airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, and Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to launch multiple F-15C/D Eagles, F-15E Strike Eagles and F-35A Lightning IIs without prior notice to test the base’s ability to rapidly generate and disperse airpower.
“ACE relies on our team’s ability to quickly mobilize our aircraft from large, centralized hub bases to networks of smaller, dispersed, spoke locations to increase survivability and complicate potential adversary targeting,” said Col. Joshua Lundeby, 18th Wing deputy commander. “Through training like this, we remain postured to deter, deny and defeat any threat to regional stability, our nation, and its allies and partners.
Airmen were tasked with getting Kadena’s diverse fleet of fighter aircraft prepped and ready to launch as though they were being dispersed to spoke locations. Once the fighters taxied, or launched for regularly scheduled training sorties, they were considered ‘departed’ for purposes of evaluation.
The exercise showcased the capabilities of U.S. Airmen across the spectrum of operational, maintenance, and support specializations.
“This wasn’t a small feat, we brought highly skilled Airmen from four different fighter maintenance units across the globe and asked them to tackle safe, compliant and efficient ACE,” said Col. Randy Schwinler, 18th Maintenance Group commander. “I am extremely proud of their performance."
As the Keystone of the Pacific, Kadena’s strategic size and location make it a pivotal installation for ensuring the defense of Japan and a free and open Indo-Pacific. Through realistic training like this exercise, Kadena Airmen are honing skills necessary to keep pace with evolving threats to the U.S. and its allies and partners.
“Exercises like this enable decentralized execution by empowering our Airmen to refine their abilities and provides them with opportunities to innovate or adapt new techniques while increasing efficiency within mission command,” Schwinler added.
Kadena is currently hosting deployed fighter units from across the Air Force to ensure uninterrupted fighter coverage at the base through the phased departure of Kadena’s venerable fleet of F-15C/D Eagles.
Having multiple fighter types operating together out of the same base present unique challenges to Team Kadena, but it also brings significant opportunities to train and enhance operational readiness.
“The array of fighters in this theater provides us with more opportunities to integrate with our regional partners,” said Col. Henry Schantz, 18th Operations Group commander. “Paring those distinct capabilities with ACE gives us an increased strategic advantage, ultimately strengthening our combat capability in defense of Japan and the Indo-Pacific region.”