Arctic Gold 23-2 refines 354th FW ACE operations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ricardo Sandoval
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 354th Fighter Wing conducted Arctic Gold 23-2, an exercise designed to practice the wing’s ability to sustain F-35 Lightning II operations from multiple, simulated, deployed locations  April 17-23, 2023. 

“The goal of this exercise was to showcase the wing’s ability to employ and sustain F-35 operations across multiple locations using the Agile Combat Employment concept,” said Todd Parks, 354th Fighter Wing Exercise Program Director. “This exercise allowed us to train power projection from our strategic arctic location to effectively deploy combat-ready fifth-generation airpower.”

Arctic Gold 23-2 was the first readiness exercise a Pacific Air Forces unit conducted under the ACE concept. Agile Combat Employment is a key operating concept for how the U.S. Air Force will fly and fight in a modern, contested environment. Under this model, a central hub is established at a forward operating location, from which smaller airbases, or spokes, are established at dispersed locations to enable maximum flexibility for airpower employment.

“We expanded our training further during this iteration of Arctic Gold by sending our teams to multiple locations on Eielson and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Marc Finnegan, 354th Fighter Wing Inspector General. “This allowed us to test and improve communication capabilities in a simulated deployed environment. Communications are essential in combating the tyranny of distance and ensuring our Airmen have the information they need to operate in dispersed locations.” 

Under the ACE concept, a deployed wing can set up a central point known as a hub, while distributing its assets across several key location points known as spokes to deploy rapid airpower. 

“The Wing Operations Center effectively exercised command and control over spokes through a variety of means,” explained Maj. Nikki Yogi, 354th Fighter Wing ACE Director. “As WOC director, I was presented with the intriguing challenge of managing C2 (command and control) spokes of different levels of infrastructure ranging from a blank slate with no connectivity to pre-existing communications infrastructure on a base.”

Arctic Gold 23-2, a continuation of AG 23-1, increased the wing’s ability to conduct fighter operations from multiple locations while testing C2 capabilities. 

“The dedicated professionals of the 354th Communications Squadron worked tirelessly to overcome the unique challenges presented by each spoke,” said Yogi. “The commitment and focus on mission success demonstrated by the 354th CS serves as an exemplary model for the rest of the 354th FW ACE working group as we enhance our ACE tactics.”

Airmen also trained and refined their skills as Multi-Capable Airmen. Multi-capable Airmen are a key component to the ACE concept where Airmen are trained as cross-functional teams in skill sets outside their core Air Force specialty to provide support in an expeditionary deployed environment. 

The execution of AG 23-2 refined the ability of the 354th FW effectively employ fifth generation combat airpower anytime, anywhere.