Thursday, October 10, 2013

Innovation advances F-22 as strategic force in the Pacific

by Capt. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

10/10/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- The newest strategy in fighter employment will enable combat-ready F-22's to rapidly refuel, rearm, and redeploy. The new concept was demonstrated here during joint exercises in August.

The usual method of deploying fighters is structured around large footprint packages to a select few operating bases. The new rapid response force concept was developed by Lt. Col. Kevin Sutterfield, a Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 477th Fighter Group.

"This concept emphasizes the fundamental tenants of airpower: speed, flexibility, and surprise by pairing smaller formations of fighters and airlift that can move quickly together and operate from unexpected locations," said Sutterfield.

After penning a white paper that circulated through the Pentagon and Combatant Command staffs, Sutterfield partnered with active duty and Reserve experts around the combat Air Force to further flush out the details.

"Pilots from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, the USAF Weapons School, and the CSAF's Strategic Studies Group played important roles in making this a reality," he said. "We determined we needed to find a way to quickly generate and move small cells of 5th generation jets ... keep them moving, refueling, and rearming for a 72-hour cycle".

To test these theories, experienced pilots and maintainers from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group developed exercises in 2009, 2010, and 2012.

The events enabled line pilots and maintainers to develop innovative tactics and practice under realistic combat stresses. In one example, F-22's from JBER executed a practice strike on targets in the Atlantic Ocean by flying very nearly over the North Pole. It demonstrated the strategic location of Alaska and the ability for airpower to hold targets at risk from great distances.

"This concept decreases the logistical burden of deploying a Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit and instead uses a flexible combination of four F-22s, one C-17, a tailored maintenance package and trained personnel to quickly project airpower anywhere on the globe," said Lt. Col. Robert Davis, former JBER 525th Fighter Squadron commander and current Air War College student, who played an integral role in making this concept a reality for the F-22s.

After several successful exercises the concept is now an operational reality.

"The concept of this rapid fighter response and its successful demonstration are the result of the synergies available when the active and reserve components work together in leveraging their corresponding strengths," said Col. Tyler Otten, 477th FG commander. "Lt. Col. Sutterfield's experience, longevity as a Reservist and innovative thought were the genesis of this idea that we were able to execute as reserve and active mission partners. This is the total force in action."

Although it was the concept of one pilot, the entire Total Force Enterprise at JBER from the maintainers, weapons loaders, fuels specialists, loadmasters of the active duty and Reserve pilots can be credited with successful demonstration of this concept.

"This rapid response force is a direct result of Airmen empowered to innovate," said Col. David Nahom, 3rd Wing commander. "There is no greater site to watch the professionalism, pride, and teamwork of our young operators and maintainers who collaborated to prove their pioneering capability."

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