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Red Tails conduct Exercise Oktober Fist 2022

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Michael Luangkhot
  • 332d Air Expeditionary Wing

The 332d Air Expeditionary Wing conducts a training exercise designed around Agile Combat Employment at a forward operating site (FOS), from September 27-28, 2022.

Exercise Oktober Fist, designed around Agile Combat Employment, displayed the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing’s ability to rapidly mobilize logistics, an MQ-9 Reaper, F-15E Strike Eagles, and an HC-130 Combat King II in a strategically competitive environment.

The 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron worked with the 361st Expeditionary Attack Squadron to execute the first combat zone MQ-9 Reaper Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability (ATLC) operation at an air base without a ground-based Launch and Recovery Element. This exercise showcased how an MQ-9 can be operated globally to provide air support anytime, anywhere while reducing deployment footprints. 

“Quickly and effectively moving our air assets like chess pieces around theater to survive, rearm and take the fight back to an adversary is critical to competing in complex threat environments,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Barber, 332d AEW A2/3/5 Directorate Deputy. “The ability to autonomously launch and recover MQ-9s from austere locations without a recovery crew is a leap in operational potential. This is essential in creating a dynamic weapon system that will out-maneuver our adversary.” 

Agile Combat Employment postures assets in multiple forward operating sites that can maintain combat operations in all domains simultaneously. The ACE framework enables faster launching, recovering, and maintenance of aircraft from bare base operating locations. 

“Our plan for Operation Agile Oktober Fist was to test the 332 AEW’s ability to respond to a crisis situation—specifically a situation that would drive us to leave our main operating base but continue combat operations at another location. ACE came into play because we needed to test how we could operate with the smallest possible support package, and move quickly to continue supporting combat operations in an obscure location,” said Capt. Tori Gomez 332d AEW Deputy Chief of Plans and Programs. “The ACE concept, when done correctly, makes our movements unpredictable to our adversaries. Our ability to spread out to other locations and continue operations makes us more difficult to target, increases our chances of survival, and gives us more options for counter-attacks. Operation Agile Oktober Fist was a very successful test of this.” 

Oktober Fist was designed to validate faster processes at the FOS in an ACE construct. Evaluations included ATLC, integrated combat turn (ICT), forward arming and refueling point (FARP), hot pit refueling, Engine Running Crew Changes (ERCC) and Communication Fly-away Kit (CFK) capabilities. Utilizing a combined ICT and ERCC, new aircrew interchange with old, while the F-15E Strike Eagle is being refueled and loaded with weapons. Applying multiple techniques concurrently provides minimal downtime on the ground, and thus a rapid return to combat operations. 

Connectivity is a key for mission control and communication from a FOS back to a main operating base. The CFK is a key component that can establish secure communication via satellite and multiple other methods anywhere in the world with little or no infrastructure. 

“The dynamic nature of combat requires an adaptive mindset,” said Col. Jason Houston 332d AEW deputy commander. “To compete we must be able to survive, reset, and rapidly counter our adversaries’ moves. Through ACE, our teams are empowering Airmen to innovate, problem solve and take calculated risks to produce air power. These efforts matched with flexibility, lean operation packages, and allied and partner integration will enable success in a dynamic threat environment.”