Mobile, Ala. --
The 187th Fighter Wing participated in a combat exercise Nov. 1-6, 2021, throughout the southeast United States.
Southern Lightning Strike, designed around Agile Combat Employment, included over 20 Air National Guard and Army National Guard units, displaying their ability to mobilize rapidly and execute with degraded connectivity in the modern strategic competition environment.
“We aren’t entering into a new era of competition,” said Col. Doug DeMaio, 187th Fighter Wing commander. “That era is upon us, and we are competing in ways we never have before as a nation. Knowing this, we must reach back to our roots, modernize, and be flexible enough to succeed in the air, space, sea, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum.”
Agile Combat Employment postures assets in agile mobility settings, continuously flowing force packages into mobile operating locations, executing in all domains simultaneously. Operating in the ACE framework enables launching, recovering, and maintaining aircraft from disaggregated operating locations at the same time, both internally to the Defense Department and through strategic partnerships and allies.
Transitioning to this posture degrades the targeting capabilities of modern competitors to advance their strategy and empowers all levels of operational leadership to act under mission command orders.
“While our connectivity is more woven into our capability chest than ever before, we need to utilize our Nation’s greatest asset, which is people,” DeMaio said. “We possess the greatest strategic and tactical advantage globally through our airmen, sailors, soldiers, guardians and coast guardsmen. The men and women who voluntarily take up defending freedom and liberty are more than capable of taking mission set orders and executing situationally to achieve strategic success. This is what enables ACE to be successful. We take our greatest asset, our people, pair them with the best technology, then empower them.”
Southern Lightning Strike was designed to develop and validate tactics, techniques, and procedures from main operating bases and forward operating locations for ACE. Evaluations included decentralized command and control for the main operating base, dispersed bases, and sustainment of the entire structure. Through exercises like this, the Defense Department can validate minimum requirements for success and evaluate the ever-evolving communications technology options for all postures.
“What we learned, validating what I already knew, is that we have excellent people,” DeMaio said. “We will continue to improve our equipment through our local transition to the F-35, which will bring us an even greater advantage. The interconnectivity of all assets and people remains critical, and I have no doubt that our airmen will continue to innovate new ways to provide us an edge as a wing, service, and as a Nation. We will continue to operate in this way daily and push for further exercise opportunities moving forward. This isn’t a blip on the radar, but a statement of who we are today and what we can do right now.