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Cope North 24: ACE accelerates USAF to stay ahead in Great Power Competition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tylir Meyer
  • Pacific Air Forces

In a time of increasing conflict and threats to the balance of a rules based international order, the Department of the Air Force is transforming to effectively deter aggression in this era of Great Power Competition. Agile Combat Employment, the main objective of Cope North 24, is key to developing the skills necessary for wartime operational mission readiness.


Cope North 24 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 4-23, 2024, implements large-scale mission-focused training to rehearse for complex military operations between multilateral partners to prepare to maintain peace and prosperity through conflict, should deterrence fail.


“We understand the gravity of the moment and we have a committed force to meet the challenges of today,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kent Romney of the Pacific Air Forces ACE joint integration team member.


CN24 allowed for demonstration and validation of ACE’s core mission as a proactive and reactive operational scheme of maneuver executed within threat timelines to increase survivability while generating combat power, as per Air Force Doctrine 1-21.


“Through the competency of both our own and allies' forces, through our commitment and willpower, we achieved that goal,” said Romney. “ACE is the way to operate in the great power competition in the Pacific, and is one of our key takeaways from these exercises.”


During Cope North 24, personnel and assets staged out of a hub location, Andersen Air Force Base, then forward-deployed to airfields with various levels of infrastructure at Northwest Field, Guam, Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport, Saipan, and Tinian.


Romney said he was impressed by the ability of exercise personnel to successfully demonstrate the second piece of the ACE doctrine, the reactive operational scheme.


“We validated our proactive maneuvers, getting people and aircraft to the spoke locations, and reactive maneuvers, the ability to react to incoming threats and get the assets off the ground safely in time,” said Romney.


“What’s most important when we are developing our ACE strategy is that we are working hand-in-hand with our multinational partners,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Daniel Hamaker, 18th Wing director of ACE. “We’re building a plan that, when we come together and operate in an environment like this, we really are interchangeable.”


Agile combat employment allows the coalition force to adjust to the local environment, issues and threats. There is no “one ACE fits all”. It is a dynamic scheme that evolves and adapts to maintain lethality.


“In any type of warfare, any fighting force needs to be able to maneuver under fire within a threat ring,” said Romney. “The ACE doctrine is a reflection of our understanding of that reality.”


Hamaker elaborated on how developing and exercising ACE capabilities prepares the force to defend against conflict.


“Coming into Cope North, there were very specific quantifiable objectives for our training,” said Hamaker. “Those goals help those at the tactical level adjust their procedures to meet those objectives.”


Cope North took the challenge to the next level by having commanders and deputy commanders from different nations leading the spoke locations.


“We’re all operating off the same game plan,” said Hamaker. “You would never know that we were from different nations because there’s a willingness to work together and achieve the mission that’s shared across the board.”


Having the right personnel and solid command structure to assess and solve problems on the ground is crucial to making ACE successful. Hamaker added that critical thinking and the ability to lead from all levels, junior airman to general officer, is part of that success.


“We can operate and integrate with numerous allies across the globe and we operate seamlessly together. That is our strongest capability, it’s our greatest asset,” said Hamaker. “I hope that ACE will be that deterrent to anyone who would challenge the status quo.”


U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Maysonet, 18th Wing ACE senior enlisted leader, expressed his admiration of everyone’s efforts and commitment to making the exercise a success.


“This is only an exercise, if it were the real thing I can only imagine how much amplified the single mindedness of achieving the mission would be,” said Maysonet. “ACE is working and I cannot wait to see what it will look like as we continue to refine it.”


Romney talked about his appreciation to work alongside people from such diverse backgrounds to accomplish something bigger than themselves.


“I think it’s a competitive advantage that we have with our allies. We fight because we believe in the free and open Pacific, we believe in a rules based international order,” said Romney.


The strength and lethality of the United States, its Allies and partners' forces is key to deterring aggression and has been proven effective.


“We’ve seen [ACE] on display in the Russo-Ukraine war, and we’ve seen that it works. We, the United States, alongside our JASDF Allies and Australian partners, are fully committed to being the force that our countries need, that a rules based international order needs, to ensure peace and prosperity as the 21st century continues,” said Romney.