Here’s How USAF’s C-130J Wings Are Chasing ACE

For the Air Force’s C-130J wings, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to gear up for agile combat employment, since the different theaters in which they operate—specifically, Europe and the Pacific—come with unique challenges, 19th Airlift Wing Commander Col. John M. Schutte told Air Force Magazine in a recent interview.

“As we think about agile combat employment, a lot of that operational experimentation that’s happening is defined by the geographic problem that we face,” Schutte said.

However, he said, wings across the globe traded notes on ACE during a Jan. 25 C-130J Super Hercules Virtual Weapons System Council. During the event, Active-duty, Guard, and Reserve wings shared updates on all things C-130J—from fleet readiness to training—and collectively made decisions impacting the whole enterprise. The 19th AW hosted the council.

ACE-related efforts may look a bit different from one wing to another, but they’re all complementary, he said.

For example, the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, is focusing on quickly getting fuel where it needs to go and then conducting “integrated combat turns.” 

“Integrated combat turns are essentially when you’re taking a combat Air Forces asset and you’re helping to allow them to rapidly regenerate to either provide fuel, munitions, or if you needed to bring in a maintenance team to help if the airplane was broken and needed to be rapidly fixed,” he explained. These turns allow CAF and Mobility Air Forces to unite in order to “regenerate combat power” and keep up the fight, he added.

In Europe, on the other hand, the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is focused on training multi-capable Airmen with “cross-functional competencies,” he said. 

Back at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., Schutte said his wing has been “working very aggressively on agile combat employment”—to include integrated combat turns—as well as brainstorming “what force presentation looks like … as an Air Force in a contested theater.” The wing is engineering “a lead wing construct for the C-130,” along the lines of similar Air Combat Command efforts, he said.

The wing integrated with ACC’s Agile Flag 21-1 exercise last fall—an event the command said tested the 366th Fighter Wing’s “ability to deploy into theater as a lead [Air Expeditionary Wing] with a wing-level air staff”—and plans to bring “a C-130 lead wing” to Volk Field, Wis., for the next iteration of the exercise this spring.

“We’re helping to act as an accelerant not just for change within Air Mobility Command but for the Air Force as we strive to partner with the CAF in better ways,” he said.

And just two weeks after the wing concludes its participation in Agile Flag 21-2, it’ll serve as the lead planning wing for Air Mobility Command’s exercise Mobility Guardian 21, Schutte said.

This year’s iteration of the biannual training event will include learning goals tailored both to ACE integration and joint all-domain command and control, he noted.