Special Warfare and Combat Rescue Airmen demonstrate ACE capabilities

  • Published
  • By 355th Wing Public Affairs
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

The 355th Wing demonstrated the ability to employ special warfare teams and combat rescue aircraft to execute agile combat employment operations in support of unmanned aircraft systems.

During Exercise Agile Angel, a team of special warfare Airmen assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron, conducted a low-visibility ground infiltration to rapidly establish and control an austere landing zone and a forward arming and refueling point while mitigating the risk of enemy detection.

The exercise leveraged HC-130J Combat King II aircraft and FARP capabilities originally developed for the combat rescue mission, to airlift munitions, fuel, and maintenance support for an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle, assigned to the 27th Special Operations Wing. The team executed an integrated combat turn for the MQ-9 and were then re-tasked to launch in support of a combat search and rescue mission.

The main objectives of Exercise Agile Angel were to execute at speed with a small number of personnel and with minimal active communications, which are all critical requirements to successfully execute ACE operations in a contested environment.  Additionally, the SWT employed a locally developed resilient mesh-network with over-the-horizon communications capabilities to command and control the entire operation.

Furthermore, the exercise demonstrated that a small element of special warfare, combat rescue, fuels, ammunition, and maintenance Airmen with multi-capable skills, led by an O-3 and an E-7 operating under mission type orders, can be a highly agile maneuver force capable of delivering operational level effects.

 “War is changing,” said U.S. Air Force Captain Aaron Smith, 48th Rescue Squadron combat rescue officer. “We have new emerging threats. The tactics of the past 20 years will not work. We need to integrate and expand our capabilities.”

The 48th RQS recently established their first SWT, combining pararescue, tactical air control party, survival, evasion, resistance, and escape, and special warfare mission support Airmen to execute a wide range of Air Force missions.  These highly capable teams are being designed to operate under the control of future combat Wings to execute their legacy joint fires integration, global access, and personnel recovery missions, while also delivering ACE, tactical C2, sensing, and multi-domain effects for the Air Component commander.

“These are truly exciting times for our Airmen,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jose Cabrera, 563rd Rescue Group commander. “Their resourcefulness and willingness to step outside of traditional roles is exactly what the Air Force needs for the future fight.”