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NEWS | Jan. 25, 2024

35th Fighter, Fighter Generation Squadron hone agility capabilities

By Staff Sgt. Samuel Earick 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8th Fighter Wing Airmen and F-16 assets honed agile combat employment capabilities, conducting an out-and-back mission with the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Jan 18.

For the mission, six F-16 Fighting Falcons, pilots from the 35th Fighter Squadron and a team of 11 multi-capable Airmen from the 35th Fighter Generation Squadron, worked with 18th Wing maintainers to set up hot pit refueling operations that ensured jets can quickly get refueled and back into international airspace.

Although training agile airpower deployment can look different for the units throughout the Air Force, the core goal remains to increase survivability and maneuverability while generating air power with a small contingent of Airmen and limited resources.

“ACE means learning how to operate without all the support assets or capabilities that one may traditionally have,” said Capt. Shaun Silk, 35th Fighter Squadron flight lead. “This mission made us practice and plan for all the contingencies that come with operating outside of our comfort zones… in new airspace, at a different base… while also challenging our ability to decentralize command and control from afar by all means available.”

Practicing ACE operations with nearby partners has become a priority for the Wolf Pack, exercising integrated capabilities and boosting interoperability across core functions to ensure the unit is agile enough to outpace adversarial actions.

“This quick out-and-back showed our mission planning abilities and the F-16s combat radius by carrying 1000 lbs. of munitions 600 nautical miles into the Pacific” said Silk. “Our pilots and maintainers got to practice off-station contingency operating procedures, utlimatly preparing them for the challenges that could arise in unfamiliar environments and ensuring were agile enough to operate from various locations.”

The 35th FGS’ small maintenance team focused on the retrieval and refueling of the mission’s F-16s; conducting hot pit refueling operations, where the jet is refueled while the engine is running to minimize the amount of time spent on the ground.

“Us refuling the jets here on the ground at Kadena, demonstrated our ability to take the fight anywhere in the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility and to go out and complete missions even further than that if needed,” said Tech. Sgt. Tillman Reeves, 35th FGS flight line expediter.

For most Airmen sent to support the mission, it was their first time in an operation that tested their ability to adapt to changing conditions and locations. This mission gave them first-hand experience on what to expect and how to handle similar taskings.

Reeves spoke on lessons learned and some of the challenges they faced once they landed at Kadena AB.

“The biggest challenge during the out-and-back was communication with both Kadena and Kunsan, and keeping track of the aircraft locations,” said Reeves. “That challenge and the fact that this was the first ACE mission for some of our Airmen, are going to be good and valuable experiences for them to look back on in the future.”

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