PHOTOS: Airmen, F-22s Scatter to Austere ‘Spokes’ for Pacific Exercise

A recent seven-day exercise sent Air Force F-22s—along with other USAF aircraft—to austere, challenging environments across Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Agile Reaper, taking place for the second time after its inaugural edition last year, featured 800 Airmen and 29 aircraft across five different locations from April 10-16, training on the Agile Combat Employment concept that leaders say will define the service in the years to come.

The 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, conducted simulated combat situations and tested agility in deploying combat air power across the expansive Indo-Pacific region.

“The goal is to develop resilient warfighters who are confident in their ability to execute using mission-type orders, generate airlift sorties in a contested environment with limited resources and grow together as a diverse team while gaining familiarity with other career fields,” Lt. Col. Logan Sutton, 535th Airlift Squadron commander, said in a release.

The exercise used a hub-and-spoke model: Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, served as the central hub, while Saipan and Tinian of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Japanese island of Iwo To, and Andersen’s Northwest Field served as the spokes for the exercise.

Many of the spokes have limited resources and bare-bones facilities. While the Northwest Field is on Guam, it is separated from the rest of the base.

F-22s from Elmendorf-Richardson and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, flew across the Pacific for the exercise. Elmendorf-Richardson also sent an HC-130 Combat King II for air refueling and a C-12 Huron for transport, a base spokesperson to Air & Space Forces Magazine. KC-46 and KC-135 tankers came from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., and Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, respectively.

Travis Air Force Base, Calif., dispatched its C-5 Galaxy, and Yokota Air Base, Japan, contributed a C-130 Hercules to transport service members and cargo back and forth between Guam.

“The Airmen landed in Saipan with limited resources and quickly worked to secure food, water, shelter and operational necessities,” Sutton said. “These competencies have been exercised routinely in specialized military units. However, doing so at scale with Mission Ready Airmen increases the flexibility and effectiveness of joint maneuver forces throughout the theater.”

Col. Kevin Jamieson, 3rd Wing and 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing commander of the Elmendorf-Richardson said this year’s training was to test “the limits of what a cohesive 3rd AEW is capable of in a combat-representative environment” based on the experience on Guam and Tinian last year. The training also served as the Air Force Force Generation (AFFORGEN) certification for the wing, a requirement for the service’s deploying forces.

Significant support operations were provided from Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Elmendorf-Richardson. While the main exercise concluded earlier this month, the rest of the forces continued to provide support until April 29, the spokesperson added.