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News | Sept. 29, 2021

F-16s practice ACE capabilities during Sky Shield III

By By Capt. Rachel Buitrago

PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, KSA – A contingent of aircraft and personnel assigned to the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing traveled to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to participate in Exercise Shy Shield III, a bilateral defensive counter air and combat search and rescue exercise, July 31 – Aug 5, 2021.

In addition to integrating U.S. operations with the Qatar Emiri Air Force, the event allowed the 378th AEW to demonstrate its agile combat employment capabilities of repositioning forces in various locations and rapidly generating combat airpower.

ACE is a concept that utilizes networks of bases, multi-capable Airmen, pre-positioned equipment and airlift operations to swiftly employ forces around the globe.

“Participating in events like Sky Shield allows us to evaluate our ability to quickly move to and operate out of different locations,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Wilson, 121st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander. “This week showed that we are able to shift forces quickly, successfully integrating with Qatari fighter operations and working together as a team to achieve a common goal in the defensive counter-air mission set.”

Both aircrew and maintenance personnel accomplished the move, generating F-16 sorties for the exercise while incorporating numerous ACE capabilities in support of the training event.

“Every time we operate out of a new location there is a period of adjusting – especially when we practice being as self-sufficient and self-sustaining as possible like we did last week,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jaresha Obey, 121st Expeditionary Fighter Generation Squadron commander. “Exercises such as Sky Shield help us reduce that timeline; I am extremely proud of my team’s ability to adjust and generate aircraft so quickly.”

In addition to standard sortie generation, the maintainers also accomplished several hot-pit refuelings during the exercise, demonstrating an agile and efficient method of returning aircraft to the mission as quickly as possible.

“We routinely train on skills like hot pits, but to be able to do it at another base and for multiple sorties demonstrates the success of the training and further develops these abilities,” said Obey.

The event was the first opportunity for the newly-arrived fighter and fighter generation squadrons to validate their ACE capabilities within the AOR and continues to show the commitment to excellence and the war-fighting capabilities of the 378th AEW.

“It is critical that we continue to improve and demonstrate our agile employment capabilities,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Davis, 378th AEW commander. “Our success in Exercise Sky Shield III proves our increased ability to integrate with regional partners and rapidly project airpower across the region when needed.”