Two U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, originating out of Souda Bay, Greece, arrived in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility through an effort to exercise cross-combatant command Agile Combat Employment (ACE) operations July 15, 2022. The fighters assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing out of Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, United Kingdom, were tasked with conducting the cross-combatant command flight into the CENTCOM AOR, executing hot-pit refueling operations with Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) support, then returning to the U.S. Air Forces Europe AOR for a combat search and rescue exercise with European partners. This training also gives AFCENT members the opportunity to conduct hot-pit refueling operations with USAFE-AFAFRICA aircrews.
“AFCENT conducts elements of ACE operations in combat every day. By executing ACE in a wartime environment, we gain valuable lessons that improve our combat capability. The AFCENT lessons also benefit the air components from other combatant commands, just as we benefit from the lessons gained during ACE operations in their theaters,” said Guillot.
“This collaboration with USAFE-AFAFRICA showcases U.S. ability to flow airpower in and out of the Middle East from anywhere in the world. The agility demonstrated in this movement is crucial as we continue to provide regional partners airpower options for deterrence and contingency response,” said. Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, Ninth Air Force (AFCENT) commander.
This refueling technique, in which jets are refueled while still running, cuts refueling time by hours, allowing AFCENT and partner aircrews to generate multiple consecutive sorties from the same aircraft. This practice enables AFCENT’s exercise of Agile Combat Employment, increasing flexibility in airpower asset basing and staging in and around theater. The command and control relationship between USAFE-AFAFRICA and AFCENT is frequently exercised through bomber presence patrols, which often originate in Europe and flow through the Mediterranean and into the Middle East. This cross-command flight represents another milestone in AFCENT’s and the U.S. Air Force’s continued development of Agile Combat Employment.
U.S. Air Forces Central is the air component of United States Central Command, a regional unified command. USAFCENT is responsible for air operations, either unilaterally or in concert with coalition partners, and developing contingency plans in support of national objectives for USCENTCOM’s 20-nation area of responsibility in Southwest Asia. Additionally, USAFCENT manages an extensive supply and equipment prepositioning program at several Area of Responsibility sites. The USAFCENT organization provides a unique dual mission for its Airmen — training of its combat units while working closely with its counterparts in Southwest Asia to ensure the stability of the region.