U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 5th Bomb Wing out of Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and U.S. Navy Sailors with the Naval Munitions Command Pacific CONUS West Division Unit Seal Beach out of Seal Beach, Calif., supported a Bomber Agile Combat Employment Dec. 6-8, 2021 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The concept is an operation initially designed by Pacific Air Forces and now adopted by other commands with the intent of enhancing mobility and adaptability of bomber forces to various locations. The concept allows for dynamic force employment of personnel and equipment to practice and enhance self-sustainable operations for extended durations, while simultaneously building resilience and maximizing operational capabilities with minimum manning and equipment.
A derivative of the original PACAF Agile Combat Employment, Air Force Global Strike Command leaders developed the BACE concept in response to adversary Anti-Access/Anti-Denial strategies described in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. The 2018 NDS described ACE “… as an operational scheme of maneuver executed within threat timelines to increase survivability while generating combat power in contested and highly contested basing environments.”
The bomber aircraft involved in this BACE iteration touched down at Edwards on Dec. 6 and quickly, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 23rd Bomb Squadron, Airmen integrated with the Sailors out of Seal Beach. The Navy munitions personnel built and delivered the MK-62 Quick Strike Mines to 5th BW Airmen to enable the 23rd BS mine laying training. This gave military personnel on both sides the opportunity to work together for the first time and build a foundation of interoperability for future exercises to achieve a more lethal and allied force.
“Basically it’s [BACE] a step forward from BTF [Bomber Task Force] which is what we were doing,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Sampayan, 5th AMXS Flying Crew Chief. In reference to the deployment pace for the B-52, Samapayan stated, “We do quick, short little TDYs all over the world. We project our combat effectiveness all throughout the entirety of the world.”
The two B-52H Stratofortress aircraft which participated in this BACE iteration hailed from the 23rd BS. The B-52s transported personnel, luggage, and equipment to provide 5th AMXS Airmen with the means to receive the mines upon delivery and properly load them into the B-52s.
Key attributes of the BACE concept include an agile force, with a small footprint and flexible employment posture.
“I would say [BACE] is different due to the fact that we’ve used the most minimal amount of equipment [and] most minimal amount of manpower comparably to our other deployments and now our other TDYs,” said Staff Sgt. Rodolfo Alas-Melendez, 5th AMXS Weapons Load Crew Team Chief. “We brought the bare minimum of what we need, we brought the bare minimum of people and we were still able to accomplish the mission that needed to be done.”
“It’s important to get this training in, not just for the Mine Men, on our side for the Navy,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Phillips, a Sailor with the NMCPAC CWD Unit Seal Beach Quality Assurance Division. “It helps us to better have our knowledge for our mines, for our buildup and our delivery to the aircraft. In regards to the Air Force, it’s great seeing what you guys do! It’s a really good process to see Mine Men wise since a lot of what we see is just the building of the mines and the shipping of them, not really the load processes. Just overall, it helps increase our overall camaraderie between the two branches.”
The BACE concept also opened up new avenues to how we see the deployment of bomber units. The exercise displayed through its multiple iterations in various locations that bombers are not bound to just a few overseas bases.
“BACE is important because it expounds on the dynamic force employment,” said Capt. Austyn Wilson, 23rd BS Weapons Officer. “It gives us that strategic competition again with the bomber fleet to exercise the agility portion, instead of just having a consistent and predictable cycle of deployments. Now we can take off anywhere, anytime, and again we can employ en route with weapons so we can have that kinetic capability against our adversaries, but it really gives us the increase, I should say, in strategic competition to expound on the dynamic force employment concept.”
After months of planning and three days of flawless execution of the exercise, the 5th BW Airmen returned back home to Minot AFB with honed technical abilities and knowledge. In a show of joint force interoperability, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force showed that no matter what, we are ready to strike anytime, anywhere.