US Air Force, RAF leaders sign Combined Vision Statement on Agile Combat Employment

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

In a landmark event poised to reshape the future of air combat operations, U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Lt. Gen. Jim Slife and Royal Air Force’s Air and Space Commander Air Marshal Harv Smyth came together to sign a Combined Vision Statement on Agile Combat Employment Sept. 12 in National Harbor, Maryland, during the Air and Space Forces Association 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference.

The collaborative endeavor signifies a pivotal moment in the evolving partnership between the U.S. Air Force and RAF, highlighting their commitment to adopting a new, strategic approach to the employment of combined global airpower.

The term Agile Combat Employment, or ACE, represents a strategic shift in how air forces operate in the modern era. Traditionally, large main bases have served as hubs for projecting airpower. However, adversarial advancements in reconnaissance and weapons capabilities have necessitated a change.

“Effective ground-up interoperability between our Air Forces as allies is a linchpin of the ACE vision,” said Slife. “While historically combined force tactics to deliver airpower are well-established, ACE demands a higher degree of interoperability across various critical activities.”

ACE introduces a paradigm shift, emphasizing the launch, recovery and maintenance of aircraft from dispersed operating locations in coordination with allies and partners. This approach enhances resilience, complicates adversary planning and broadens the spectrum of options available to joint and combined force commanders.

Crucially, ACE recognizes the vulnerability of aircraft on the ground, offering an approach to mitigate potential losses through maneuver and dispersal. These areas include command and control, engineering and logistics, base defense, intelligence sharing, and more.

“This continues and reinforces our exciting journey towards an even more agile, interoperable and interchangeable future for air operations,” Smyth said. “We are committed to maximizing our combined strengths, learning from one another and pioneering new approaches to ensure air superiority in an ever-evolving security landscape.”

The Combined Vision Statement includes several key objectives:

  • Common terminology and concepts: Adoption of shared terminology and concepts to describe ACE.
  • Common tactics, techniques, and procedures: Development and evaluation of ACE-supporting TTPs, including cross-servicing and other combat support requirements.
  • Combined exercises: Execution of bilateral and multilateral ACE exercises, with a focus on testing and improving interoperability.
  • Materiel capability: Identification of common materiel capability gaps and the development of shared solutions, moving away from unique platform support equipment toward generic interoperable options.

The signing of this Combined Vision Statement marks a significant step forward in the long-standing relationship between the U.S. Air Force and RAF. It underscores a commitment to future collaboration and the security of both nations to maintain air superiority by presenting a combat-credible coalition that enhances deterrence, defense and power projection through proactive and reactive maneuver.