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(Photos) First-ever extreme cold weather forward area refueling with F-22 fighter jets

A Special Tactics operator guards an F-22 Raptor with the 3rd Wing as it refuels during Emerald Warrior at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 30, 2020. This was the first-ever simulated Forward Area Refueling Point for F-22 Raptors in an extreme cold weather environment. Emerald Warrior 20-1 provides annual, realistic pre-deployment training encompassing multiple joint operating areas to prepare special operations forces, conventional force enablers, partner nations, and interagency elements to integrate with and execute full spectrum special operations in an arctic climate, sharpening U.S. forces’ abilities to operate around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ridge Shan)

If an aircraft is behind enemy lines and running low on fuel, a forward area refueling point (FARP) 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, providing strategic access for our nation’s military.

For the first time, aircrew with the 27th Special Operations Wing, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, along with a team of Special Tactics Airmen carried out a simulated FARP for F-22 Raptors assigned to Pacific Air Forces’ 3rd Wing in an extreme cold weather environment during Emerald Warrior at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, January 21-31.

Aircrew, operators, and support personnel with the 24th and 27th Special Operations Wings arrive in Alaska to conduct training exercises in support of Emerald Warrior at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 28, 2020. Emerald Warrior 20-1 provides annual, realistic pre-deployment training encompassing multiple joint operating areas to prepare special operations forces, conventional force enablers, partner nations, and interagency elements to integrate with and execute full spectrum special operations in an arctic climate, sharpening U.S. forces’ abilities to operate around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ridge Shan)

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“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] 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.”

pecial Tactics operators lead F-22 Raptors with the 3rd Wing in an all-terrain vehicle down a runway to simulate the first-ever simulated Forward Area Refueling Point for F-22 Raptors in an extreme cold weather environment during Emerald Warrior at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 30, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ridge Shan)

Forward Area Refueling Point aircrew members with the 27th Special Operations Wing await the arrival of several F-22 Raptors with the 3rd Wing to conduct the first-ever simulated FARP for F-22 Raptors in an extreme cold weather environment during Emerald Warrior at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 30, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ridge Shan)

The training familiarized Special Tactics operators with the Air Force’s fifth-generation aircraft, providing unmatched lethality and adaptability to the warfighter.

“F-22s and F-35s were designed to compete and win against advanced adversaries,” said a Special Tactics officer. “Working with the newest and most advanced fighters in the Air Force provides [Special Tactics] the opportunity to maintain technological edge and develop the tactics, techniques and procedures needed in order to leverage their full capabilities.”

During this exercise, Special Tactics operators integrated with an MC-130J Commando II and F-22 Raptors. 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.

Forward Area Refueling Point aircrew members with the 27th Special Operations Wing await the arrival of several F-22 Raptors with the 3rd Wing to conduct the first-ever simulated FARP for F-22 Raptors in an extreme cold weather environment during Emerald Warrior at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 30, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ridge Shan)

“This year’s location pushed our limits on sustainability in a major combat operation and provided an opportunity to refine and rewrite TTPs for a challenging operational environment,” the STO said.

Emerald Warrior is a U.S. Special Operations Command 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.

Forward Area Refueling Point aircrew members with the 27th Special Operations Wing and Special Tactics operators recover equipment back onto an MC-130J Commando II after successfully refueling several F-22 Raptors with the 3rd Wing during Emerald Warrior at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 30, 2020. This was considered the first-ever simulated Forward Area Refueling Point for F-22 Raptors in an extreme cold weather environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ridge Shan)

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.

“The team was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the professionals in the F-22 and MC-130 community,” the STO said. “We experienced incredible motivation and creative problem solving to push this program forward.”

Special Tactics is U.S. Special Operations Command’s tactical air and ground integration force, and the Air Force’s special operations ground force, leading global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations.

This press release was originally published by the U.S. Air Force.