ACE Symposium reaps lessons learned, best practices from warfighters

  • Published
  • By Billy Blankenship

Operational planning experts and weapon systems operators from across the Air Force met at Air University Feb. 1-3, 2022, for the first Agile Combat Employment Symposium, hosted by the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education

By compiling lessons learned and best practices from attendees, the LeMay Center plans to provide rapid updates to Air Force Doctrine Note 1-21, ACE, which was released in December 2021. 

“As you know, the Air Force chief of staff has made it very clear the Air Force must accelerate change or lose,” said Maj. Gen. William G. Holt II, Lemay Center’s commander and the Air University vice commander, during opening comments at the symposium. “The change he’s referring to covers several areas, but none may be as important as the way we, the Air Force, position ourselves against peer and near-peer threats. The work done here will go a long way to solidifying the ACE construct. ACE is more than a tool we can keep in our toolkits. It is a scheme of maneuver that the Air Force uses to generate combat power, safeguard assets, and confuse our enemies.” 

Due to the directed shift in the National Defense Strategy related to peer and near-peer adversary focus, the service began to pursue ways to maintain and present a credible combat capability in a denied environment. 

ACE was developed as a result of the NDS direction to develop a lethal, agile, and resilient force posture and employment. 

Air Force Doctrine Note 1-21 is the service’s first doctrine on ACE. This symposium collected experts from across the Air Force who have ACE exercise experience and operational planning expertise to continue to develop ACE doctrine.  

“ACE is a tool to enable presenting a credible deterrence to adversaries and competitors. Moreover, it provides assurances to our allies that we can operate in a denied or degraded environment,” said Maj. Evan Hatter, the Lemay Center’s doctrine outreach division chief. “This was a great opportunity for gathering some of the best minds related to ACE and continue to advance as Air Force and Defense Department efforts.” 

The doctrine note will continue to be updated as the service explores innovative actions within ACE, aided by events such as this symposium to collect lessons learned from across the service. 

“ACE is developing rapidly and as such deserves continuous iteration in doctrine by the LeMay Center,” Hatter said. “Each exercise that implements ACE presents new challenges and lessons learned that refine its operational framework, both in planning and execution. The key successes this symposium achieved were extracting relevant lessons learned from recent exercises and the refinement of current ACE terminology to further aid the development of this emerging doctrine. Additionally, the symposium outcomes identified areas within HAF lines of effort for progress of ACE capabilities and capacity.”