552nd Air Control Wing posturing for BMC2 evolution during Agile Thunder

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff

The 552nd Air Control Wing concluded Agile Thunder, a readiness exercise at Tinker Air Force Base, Hill AFB, and Mountain Home AFB Aug. 14-25, 2023.

Agile Thunder is a two-week exercise providing the units a chance to demonstrate operational readiness and agility while generating, employing, and sustaining the forces in a simulated combat environment.

The 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron and the 729th Air Control Squadron were lead squadrons for this event. They were supported by the 552nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 552nd Maintenance Squadron, the 552nd Operations Support Squadron and 552nd Air Control Networks Squadron, for a total of about 1000 people across the wing participating at all locations.

“This is the first time in about 10 years we’ve integrated during an exercise with the reserve unit deploying with the 970th AACS and including the 513th IG team as well,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Keith, Inspector General for the 552nd ACW. “The 72nd Air Base Wing played a key role in getting the 552nd ACW out the door on time and they always provide excellent support.”

“Our goal was to build relationships,” Keith added. “This gave everyone a chance to get to know each other before going out in the field.

Throughout the exercise, the 963rd AACS flew an E-3 to Hill AFB and integrated with the 729th Air Control Squadron’s Control and Reporting Center, and an E-3 also flew to Tyndall Air Force Base to integrate with the 81st Air Control Squadron.

Keith noted that the 963rd executed a sortie armed with M-9 pistols for the first time in about 16 years.

“The challenges in an exercise are as real as we can make it so they can be uncomfortable, learn the skills, and prepare for high-end combat in a safe environment,” said Keith. “We test worst-case skills so Airmen will have practical experience in environments we hope they will never need to operate in.”

During the Generation phase, Airmen performed logistics and force generation from multiple locations simultaneously. The employment phase included simulated chemical attacks, various threats, changes in force protection conditions and actions associated with each, as well a E-3 operations from contingency locations.

“Our readiness exercises are critical to understanding how our Airmen’s training has prepared them to meet the needs outlined in the NSS,” said Col. Kenneth Voigt, commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing. “I’m very pleased with how well everyone performed throughout the exercise.”

Keith said another part of the exercise involves constrained logistics, so they don’t have a lot of computers or secure connections, making communication challenging. He added everyone involved was forced to figure out how to operate in restrained conditions.

A network outage occurred during the exercise and Keith said it was real, but the IG team liked it because an outage could really happen. Keith added IG will only call a pause an exercise if there is a safety concern.

“Everyone did an excellent job even through harsh and tough conditions,” said Keith. “They overcame adversity to make the mission happen and most of the time with a smile on their faces. I’m really proud of all the mission partners who participated in support of Agile Thunder.”