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The Air Force on June 23 announced its vision for operations in modern, competitive environments, created to codify and synchronize agile operational tactics in combat operations across the enterprise.

Adversary threats to Air Force operations on bases can thwart US power projection, overwhelm traditional defense concepts, inflict prohibitive casualties and derail joint missions. To address these challenges, ACE is moving operations from centralized physical infrastructure to a network of smaller, distributed sites or clustered bases.

“We need to hold the altitude and fight from an advantageous position,” the Air Force chief of staff said General CQ Brown, Jr. “A fundamental change in how we generate airpower will make enemy planning more difficult and provide more options for our combined forces and coalition commanders. Over the past 20 years, our operational approach has prioritized efficiency in a non-competitive environment. ACE places a strong emphasis on effectiveness in an increasingly challenging threat environment.”

Operationalizing ACE will help: Codify a repeatable and understandable process; appropriately organised, trained and equipped forces; theaters equipped with the appropriate equipment, assets and agreements with the host nations; and robust shared service and integration and interoperability of partner countries.

ACE looks somewhat different depending on the theater of operations and the type of forces involved, requiring a variety of approaches for the war fighter.

Europe is about what you might call proximity tyranny, or short threat periods against Russian missile launches or other attacks, and the expectation that every flight operation can be easily observed. The Pacific represents the tyranny of distance or vast oceans between likely forward-operating sites, many of which are within reach of China’s rapidly advancing missile capabilities.

At a tactical level, the ACE playbook approaches and capabilities must allow dispersed forces to adapt and assert themselves despite uncertainty, using the best intelligence available to local commanders. This will require alternating between offensive and defensive operations, depending on what is achievable with available connectivity and logistical support.

At the operational level for centralized command and distributed control, understanding what military forces can achieve with available resources and trade-off risks is crucial. The offensive and defensive capabilities and expertise available at each deployment location may vary, as may the logistical support available.

The ACE framework provides the Air Force with the ability to develop, maintain, and share timely, accurate, and relevant mission information across dispersed forces, despite opposing attempts to deny or disparage it. It also prepares leaders to make and disseminate risk-aware decisions with limited information.

“Adapting to this new paradigm shift ensures we maintain a fighting force,” Brown said. “Our airmen can expect to conduct operations at a speed, scale, complexity and scale that will surpass recent campaigns from distributed locations with increased survivability and improved effectiveness.”

In addition to streamlining tactics, the development of the airmen needed to meet core, functional, and mission-specific requirements is critical to the operationalization of ACE.

The Air Force is evolving from the just-in-time expeditionary model to the recognition that every Airman, no matter where they are stationed or deployed, must be prepared for a world of increasing uncertainty and have the right training to respond to any eventuality .

Beginning with adjustments to the basic Ready Airmen training requirements, Airmen receive training that is more evenly spread across all four phases of the Air Force generation cycle, as opposed to just-in-time training prior to an expeditionary deployment.

In addition, future training models will be able to be adapted to the level of experience and the needs of the aviators. The training of multirole aviators represents a shift from traditional, large force packages to a smaller footprint to provide combat support and address resource issues.

Those whose jobs are more directly related to operations in general and ACE in particular will need more focused training to be multiskilled on an airfield. The exact breakdown of Air Force Specialty Codes and required skills is yet to be determined.

The intent is to train aviators to be more productive at discrete warfare tasks that would reduce the number of aviators exposed to danger in harsh environments.

“The multifunctional Airman concept is not about doing more with less,” he said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne S. Bass. “Instead, it’s about how we consciously train and empower our airmen to master future high-end combat. Our Airmen are the competitive advantage we have over any adversary and how we prepare them for future conflicts.”



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