RAF and U.S. Air Force sign Combined Vision Statement on Agile Combat Employment

The RAF has signed a landmark Vision Statement with the U.S. Air Force, which will reshape the future of joint air combat operations.

Military personnel sat at table signing document

The Air and Space Commander, Air Marshal Harv Smyth and the U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Lieutenant General Jim Slife have signed a Combined Vision Statement in Washington D.C. on the future of Agile Combat Employment.

This is a significant step in the evolving partnership between the RAF and USAF, highlighting the commitment to adopting a new, strategic approach to the employment of our aircraft.

Smyth and Slife smiling at camera following the signing of the document

The term Agile Combat Employment, or ACE, is a strategic shift in how our air forces operate in the modern era. Traditionally, large main bases have served as hubs for projecting airpower. However, adversarial advancements in reconnaissance and weapons capabilities have necessitated a change.

“This continues and reinforces our exciting journey towards an even more agile, interoperable, and interchangeable future for air operations. We are committed to maximizing our combined strengths, learning from one another, and pioneering new approaches to ensure air superiority in an ever-evolving security landscape.”

Air Marshal Smyth
UK Air and Space Commander

ACE represents a significant shift in the conduct of operations, whereby aircraft launch, recover, and are maintained from dispersed operating locations in coordination with allies and partners. This approach enhances resilience, complicates adversary planning, and broadens the spectrum of options available to commanders.

“Effective ground-up interoperability between our Air Forces as allies is a linchpin of the ACE vision. While historically combined force tactics to deliver airpower are well-established, ACE demands a higher degree of interoperability across various critical activities.”

Lieutenant General Jim Slife
U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations

Crucially, ACE recognizes the vulnerability of aircraft on the ground, offering an approach to mitigate potential losses through manoeuvre and dispersal.  These areas include command and control, engineering and logistics, base defence, intelligence-sharing, and more.

The Combined Vision Statement includes several key objectives:

  • Common terminology, and concepts: Adoption of shared terminology and concepts to describe ACE.
  • Common tactics, techniques, and procedures: Development of common tactics, techniques, and procedures, including the ability to service allied air force’s aircraft.
  • Combined exercises: Execution of bilateral and multilateral ACE exercises, with a focus on testing and improving interoperability.
  • Materiel capability: Identification of common materiel capability gaps and the development of shared solutions, moving away from unique platform support equipment toward generic interoperable options.

4 men standing after document signing

The signing of this Combined Vision Statement marks a significant step forward in the long-standing relationship between the RAF and USAF. It underlines a commitment to the security of both nations by providing a combat-credible coalition that enhances deterrence, defence, and power projection.