The U.S. Air Force Special Tactics operators has simulated the first-ever Forward Area Refueling Point (FARP) with F-22 Raptor fighter jets in an extreme cold weather environment.
The FARP was simulated during Exercise Emerald Warrior at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, January 21-31 by Special Tactics Airmen from 24th Special Operations Wing (24 SOW) based at Hurlburt Field, Florida and aircrew with the 27th Special Operations Wing (27 SOW) based at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.
If an aircraft is behind enemy lines and running low on fuel, a forward area refueling point may be necessary to refuel that aircraft and carry out the mission. Behind those enemy lines, Special Tactics Airmen are relied on to survey the area of interest to ensure the aircraft can land and be refueled. Special Tactics teams can assess, open, and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in either permissive or hostile locations.
“The ability to refuel aircraft at forward airfields and in austere environments is a critical element of Agile Combat Employment,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Davis, commander of the 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. “Practicing this capability with Special Tactics operators enhances our interoperability with the special operations community and increases our ability to generate combat power in a contested environment. Special Tactics operators are uniquely suited to seize and control airfields, and demonstrating our ability to conduct forward area refueling in challenging arctic conditions takes ACE to new heights.”
The ACE concept provides special operations forces an opportunity to produce lethality with a smaller footprint.
“Bringing together [Air Force Special Operations Command, AFSOC] and the [Conventional Air Force] capitalizes on the rapid planning cycle and precision lethality of Special Tactics in combination with the overwhelming firepower of the CAF,” said a Special Tactics officer and one of the leads for the exercise. “We are able to break open opportunities not afforded to aircraft, like the F-22, in a major combat operation when we rapidly seize an airfield and utilize it to rearm and refuel air dominance assets to keep them in the fight.”
The training familiarized Special Tactics operators with the Air Force’s fifth-generation aircraft, providing unmatched lethality and adaptability to the warfighter.
During this exercise, Special Tactics operators integrated with AFSOC’s MC-130J Commando II special mission aircraft and F-22 Raptor fighter jets. The airfield was surveyed, secured and operated by an ST team while the C-130 crew refueled the fighters.
The environment allowed ST teams to train on how to best prepare and pack for an extreme cold weather mission as well as perform certain tasks with decreased dexterity.
Emerald Warrior is a U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) directed exercise focusing on irregular warfare in a joint, NATO combined realistic environment. This training hones special operations forces’ air and ground combat skills and the development of improved tactics, techniques and procedures, while strengthening relationships for future deployments.
For Special Tactics, Emerald Warrior is a way to execute and demonstrate a range of skills while integrating the capabilities of joint assets and allies, maintaining an edge over the nation’s adversaries.