As Air Combat Command (ACC) prepares a campaign plan by October to counter the “near peer” threats of Russia and China, one key element of the plan will be “force elements,” consisting of different unit type codes.
Deployments may have a wing headquarters command and control force element, one or more mission generation force elements and an air base squadron force element.
“One of the most significant changes in this plan is how the Air Force presents our forces,” ACC said in an email on July 8. “We’re no longer focusing on individual flights, squadrons, groups, or wings, but on force elements. A force element is a specific unit of measure the Air Force uses to offer forces to the Joint Staff and Combatant Commanders. Force elements are a composition of multiple unit type codes that represents an operational capability and are aligned to the Air Force’s assigned roles and missions.”
“These force element capabilities will be presented to the Joint Force under the Air Expeditionary Task Force construct and will represent the primary portfolio of operational capabilities the Air Force provides for the nation’s defense,” ACC said. “This is a significant departure from the past when the service identified its capabilities in terms of squadrons, aircraft tail counts, or even individual airmen.”
As the U.S. Air Force continues its reorganization to deter China and Russia, ACC’s campaign plan working group stood up in March to focus on “a sustainable force offering optimized for adaptive operations in a contested environment and able to rapidly deploy and generate combat power in a peer environment,” ACC has said (Defense Daily, July 2).
While defense analysts have honed in on the Air Force’s fiscal 2022 budget proposal to retire 201 legacy aircraft to help fund a requested $2.2 billion increase in Air Force research and development (R&D), the Air Force reorganization may also save funds for R&D and procurement.
ACC would not comment on whether it plans to change the size of Combat Air Force squadrons, but the command did suggest that a maintenance re-organization would lower costs and support the ACC campaign plan.
We are looking at our command and control relationships to better align units for deployments in the future.
“We are looking at our command and control relationships to better align units for deployments in the future,” ACC said on July 8. “A recent example of a change is the ‘Combat Oriented Maintenance Organization,’ or COMO. This recent recommended change realigns our large aircraft maintenance squadrons into separate smaller fighter generation squadrons. ACC is targeting summer of 2022 for the completion of these maintenance organizational changes.”
The 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, S.C. and the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah are the first wings implementing the Combat Oriented Maintenance Organization.
The ACC campaign plan’s envisioned two-year force generation cycle is to consist of four six-month readiness phases to improve the Air Force posture against “near peer” adversaries. Under the draft plan, forces are to deploy as needed in the ‘Available’ phase, recharge in the ‘Reset’ phase, begin increasing readiness levels in the ‘Prepare’ phase, and gear up to deploy in the ‘Ready’ phase.
“The two year, six month, generation cycle is an Air Force wide directed change to the generation cycle,” ACC said on July 8. “This rhythm provides a sustainable force offering that will be organized together, trained together, certified together, and be prepared to fight together when we deploy to a combatant command area of responsibility. Additionally, this rhythm gives our airmen and leaders predictability in their deployment cycle so they know where to focus their efforts during each six-month window. ”
Air Force Gen. Mark Kelly, the commander of ACC, has said that “peer competition, crisis and combat does not provide us with ‘months’ to assess and study requirements, execute the RFF [request for forces] process, work sourcing, schedule deployments and eventually become a cohesive team.”