The 492nd Fighter Squadron (FS) – a unit assigned to the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk – completed a three-day Agile Combat Employment (ACE) exercise on January 13.
Nicknamed the ‘Bolars’, the unit conducted a simulated deployment of four Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle multi-role fighters to a forward operating base on the north side of RAF Lakenheath. A team of 14 maintenance personnel with limited support equipment also participated in the ACE exercise. During which, the USAF states that “airmen and aircrew underwent cross-discipline training, learning new skillsets from their peers in other career fields.”
Capt David Spieker, an F-15E pilot with the 492nd FS, said: “We had a subject matter expert from each career field, and we were all learning and executing each other’s duties. It helps everyone gain an appreciation of each other’s jobs and makes cooperation more successful in the future.”
One of the mission objectives was to fly from the simulated forward operating base to another airfield. To accomplish this, two F-15Es flew to Leuchars Station (formerly RAF Leuchars) in Fife, Scotland, on January 11 – where they were refuelled before returning to RAF Lakenheath.
Although it is no longer an RAF station, the runway at the Scottish base is maintained so it can be used as a diversion airfield for aircraft based at the nearby RAF Lossiemouth. In 2020, Leuchars Station saw a large amount of air activity due to runway refurbishment work at Lossiemouth, during which Royal Air Force (RAF)-operated Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s and Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1s were flown from the base.
Sqn Ldr Barry Flynn, the officer commanding Leuchars Diversion Airfield, said: “The visit of two 48th Fighter Wing F-15s was a great example of a well-planned and proficiently executed mission. The USAF planners did an exceptional job of keeping Leuchars informed of requirements and timings, which ensured a smooth-running operation. This visit is hopefully the first step of a friendship between the 48th Fighter Wing and Leuchars airfield.”
The ACE exercise initiative is designed to improve mission readiness and increase capabilities in non-optimal environments. According to the USAF, the concept “aims to develop airmen who are adept in disciplines outside of their normal day-to-day duties”, adding that the exercise contributes to the “evolution of multi-capable airmen and aircrew”.
In non-training scenarios, ACE is intended to reduce the personnel footprint required to deploy forces on short- or no-notice missions. It also ensures that the 48th Fighter Wing is postured to respond to a number of military operations across the spectrum.