Air Combat Command Designates Five ‘Lead Wings’

Air Combat Command has designated five units to serve as “lead wings” as the Air Force looks to overhaul its force generation model and pivot to strategic competition with China and Russia. 

The five wings, scattered from Idaho to Georgia, will be designated to “rapidly generate combat power as a deployed force,” ACC commander Gen. Mark D. Kelly said in a Jan. 5 memo.

The five wings are: 

  • 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
  • 23rd Wing, Moody AFB, Ga.
  • 55th Wing, Offutt AFB, Neb.
  • 355th Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
  • 366th Fighter Wing, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho

The lead wing structure has been discussed for more than a year. In the fall of 2020, then-commander of the 15th Air Force, Maj. Gen. Chad Franks, told reporters that the concept involved individual squadrons being assigned to wings, sometimes not the wing it reports to normally, and the wings training together in anticipation of a large-scale conflict that would require massive deployments. 

In May 2021, ACC established a task force to work on how the air combat forces would train and prepare for a high-end fight. Part of the task force’s focus touched on the lead wing construct, folding it under the larger concept of agile combat employment in which multi-capable Airmen deploy to remote locations in small teams to make the Air Force less vulnerable.

The lead wing concept “further refines Agile Combat Employment and Multi-Capable Airmen concepts,” Kelly said in his memo. 

“This shift takes us from a reactive force optimized for counter-insurgency ops over the past 20 years in permissive environments, to wings ready to deploy as high-performing, task-organized combat teams, and operate in a contested environment with joint and coalition partners,” Kelly said in a statement.

Kelly also designated five wings as “Lead Wings in Extremis” to provide support when additional forces are required for a lead wing. Those five are:

  • 1st Fighter Wing, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
  • 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw AFB, S.C.
  • 325th Fighter Wing, Tyndall AFB, Fla.
  • 388th Fighter Wing, Hill AFB, Utah 
  • 633rd Air Base Wing, JB Langley-Eustis, Va.

ACC is still working to determine “required force elements and organizational structures” for the new lead wings, it said, but experiments and exercises are planned in 2022 to test the new structure.