By Keefer Patterson, Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
/ Published April 09, 2021
A 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron crew chief prepares to marshal a B-1B Lancer at Ørland Air Force Station, Norway, March 16, 2021. During the Bomber Task Force Europe deployment, the 9th EBS integrated and trained with six ally and partner nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)
A B-2 Spirit, assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, prepares to land at Lajes Field, Azores, March 22, 2021. The B-2s are currently supporting Bomber Task Force missions across Europe where they integrated with B-1 Lancer, assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, to create a secure and stable Arctic region. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar)
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron prepares to land at Ørland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021. The 9th EBS operated out of Ørland AFS, Norway where they conducted a series of Bomber Task Force Europe training missions. These bomber missions are representative of the U.S. commitment to our allies and enhancing regional security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)
Three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, depart Lajes Field, Azores, March 16, 2021. The B-2s refueled at Lajes prior to supporting bomber task force missions in the Arctic region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar)
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off from Ørland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021. The 9th EBS operated out of Ørland AFS, Norway where they conducted a series of Bomber Task Force Europe training missions. BTF Operations and engagements with U.S. allies and partners demonstrates and strengthens the shared commitment to global security and stability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)
Air Force Global Strike Command’s Bomber Agile Combat Employment gives U.S. strategic bombers a competitive edge in a time of great power competition.
In 2019, before his appointment as Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. C.Q. Brown, Jr., operating as the Pacific Air Forces commander, said, “to generate combat power from a number of locations to create dilemmas for an adversary...I just need a runway, a ramp, a weapons trailer, a fuel bladder, and a pallet of [meals, ready to eat]. That’s maybe a little bit bold, but the point is, we’ve got to be light, lean and agile.”
Within the past two years, AFGSC has developed and fine-tuned a concept called Bomber Agile Combat Employment which has supported the command’s Dynamic Force Employment efforts, expanded the number of bases from which the Air Force can generate combat sorties and leveraged networks of pre-positioned Airmen and equipment to rapidly deploy at a moment’s notice in support of theater operations.
“AFGSC has completed its work on what we call Bomber Agile Combat Employment,” said Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, during the 2021 virtual Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Feb. 25. “I’m very pleased with the way we approached it. A great deal of what we’re doing now with our Bomber Task Force is part of the competitive space. So, my ability to get to places around the globe and to show presence and support for our partners and allies and augment the forces that are forward I think is a powerful thing.”
What is ACE?
Nested under Adaptive Operations in Contested Environments, a Department of the Air Force concept that describes how the Air Force will execute DFE, ACE is an operational scheme of maneuver being used by various platforms across the Air Force. Considering the force-multiplying combat firepower bombers bring to bear, applying the ACE concept to the bomber mission provides strategic advantages.
“The AFGSC Bomber ACE concept demonstrates how bomber forces can be responsive, survivable, sustainable and integrated across the competition continuum,” Maj. Kellan Bethke, AFGSC future bomber concepts lead, said. “The concept uses a global network of bases to complicate adversary targeting, enhance force survivability, enable maneuver options, generate multiple avenues of attack, and build relationships with joint and international partners.
Learning lessons from earlier iterations applied to fighter and tanker missions, installations across the command have informed and enhanced the ACE concept by testing abilities to deploy small contingency packages of bombers to remote and austere locations.
“Gen. Ray signed the command’s foundational ACE document in January 2021 which standardized the use of the concept across the command,” Bethke said. “However, AFGSC units have experimented with the concept since 2019 and have incorporated it into operations since the spring of 2020.”
The recent B-1 BTF to Ørland Air Force Station, Norway, and the B-2 BTF to Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal, illustrated that bombers are not confined to a few predictable operating locations.
“You’ve seen here recently, we put B-1s into India, the B-1s are in Norway, we’ve flown the B-2s and B-52s all over the place,” Ray said at the Feb. 25 conference. “Those concepts from communications, from logistics, from security, all those things are being refined and it’s a pretty interesting story. We continue to make progress.”
Bomber ACE also provides increased opportunities to train with allies and partners across the globe, strengthening interoperability.
“I do want to make sure that it is much more aligned with the world we live in terms of leaner logistics with faster turn times from here in the U.S. to other places to make sure we know how to do that really right and well,” Ray said. “It’s going to happen around the world and it’s going to be meant for our partners and allies, and for any would-be adversaries.”
Applying the ACE concept to the bomber mission provides an added layer to AFGSC’s competitive edge. Whether it is aircrew, maintainers, munitions personnel, logisticians, intelligence, airfield operations, civil engineering or contracting, ACE is a combat-oriented capability that requires every striker Airman to do their part to generate war-winning bomber airpower.
“In an era of great power competition, we must train as we fight, this means that we must train and practice ACE at home stations as well,” Bethke said.