McConnell conducts exercise to test ACE capabilities

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Marc A. Garcia
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Hot-pit operations, dual defueling and off-station servicing were the latest demonstrations of Agile Combat Employment capabilities, during a local exercise here, Nov. 29-Dec. 1.


The local exercise, dubbed Operation SHIMA PRIDE, challenged 22nd and 931st Air Refueling Wing aircrews, maintainers, fuels and other support personnel with a variety of tasks designed to expand both individual and unit-level ACE capabilities.


“The operation creates a hub and spoke concept in the vicinity of McConnell Air Force Base,” said Capt. Henry Darr, 22nd ARW wing ACE chief. “The crews operate under mission type orders and are provided an Air Tasking Order instead of a regular schedule format. Observers are on the aircraft to provide exercise injects which requires the crews to deviate from their plan on mission type orders.”


Operation SHIMA PRIDE simulated day and night combat operations with aircraft commanders having to make decisions in a dynamic environment, he added. The end result is to provide air refueling under a contested environment in deployed conditions while operating on mission type orders.  Hot-pit refueling and dual-defueling are two practices essential to that mission.


Hot-pit refueling occurs when a tanker has at least one engine running, while onloading fuel. Dual defueling occurs when a tanker lands and off-loads fuel using two tanker vehicles or fuel bladders. Both of these practices serve to minimize a tanker’s ground time.


“KC-46 Pegasus aircraft conducted dual defuel operations in support of a simulated fighter integrated combat turn or dual refuel to quickly turn tanker aircraft. KC-135 Stratotankers conducted hot-pit refueling operations to quickly regenerate a tanker at an austere location. Both aircraft will have their aircrew service fuel, oil and hydraulic fluid while off-station,” said Darr. “Lastly, aircraft commanders are put into situations where the plans they left home-station with will no longer work and they have to utilize their mission-type orders in order to accomplish their refueling objectives.”


The exercise was coordinated by the 22nd ARW’s ACE Team. Formed in July 2021, the ACE team’s mission is to be proactive and reactive in an operational capacity to increase survivability while generating global combat capability. Operation SHIMA PRIDE is the latest demonstration of their efforts.


“Operation SHIMA PRIDE builds our fundamental skillsets required to conduct our mission in contested and austere environments, and meet the needs of combatant commanders,” said Col. Nate Vogel, 22nd ARW commander. “Our 22 ARW ACE team, and the Airmen at McConnell AFB, have taken Agile Combat Employment from concept to operation in a matter of weeks. We should all be proud of how far we have come, while also acknowledging there is a long way to go.”