AFCEC partners with USAFE, French forces to enhance NATO engineering capabilities

  • Published
  • By Emily Mifsud
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s expeditionary modernization team joined U.S. Air Forces in Europe and the French armed forces in Exercise Razorback, an interoperability airfield damage repair training, at Vouziers Airfield and Grostenquin Airfield, France, March 20 to April 3.

The multiphase operational airbase recovery exercise emphasized airfield damage repair, or ADR, focusing on airfield attack hazard assessments, crater repairs and explosive ordnance disposal mitigation. The AFCEC team was responsible for developing the tactics, techniques and procedures for the Air Force’s role in Exercise Razorback. They also provided the team with extensive training before the start of the exercise.

“Exercise Razorback would not have been successfully executed without leveraging AFCEC’s expertise and resources to enhance our team’s effectiveness,” said Maj. John Penaranda, chief of USAFE-AFAFRICA Engineering Division’s NATO Partner Engagements Section. “They have been lockstep with our goals and have worked hand in hand with the team to ensure the mission’s success.”

The exercise showcased two of the Air Force’s newest airfield damage recovery capabilities: Expeditionary Airfield Damage Repair, or E-ADR, and Fiber Reinforced Polymer matting, or FRP. Both capabilities are currently being postured across the globe and used by multiple joint and international mission partners within the NATO alliance.

Stemming from the traditional rapid airfield damage repair capability, E-ADR is a package containing equipment, materials and tools designed to be the lightest and leanest ADR capability to support post-attack recovery. This significantly reduces the footprint of the equipment and manpower required for quick airfield repairs.

The FRP matting capability acts as a foreign object debris cover that can be constructed and installed atop craters to quickly restore aircraft operations. This is the first time the Air Force has tested FRP over a compacted crushed stone repair.

“These exercises provide us with an understanding of E-ADR’s abilities and limitations to further validate its capabilities to rapidly complete expeditionary airfield repairs,” said Maj. Christopher Schmidt, chief of AFCEC’s Expeditionary Modernization Branch. “They also help to better prepare commanders and war planners, especially as we reoptimize for the Great Power Competition.”

The exercise served as an operational imperative to build a common understanding of how to construct and install FRP, as well as any aircraft operating limitations that exist with the matting, Schmidt said.

Following the completion of the ADR capabilities, the French air force conducted a live demonstration of an A400M European military aircraft landing on the FRP matting assembled during the exercise. This was the first time the matting was tested with a French aircraft, making it the fourth aircraft type to perform a live FRP demonstration.

“These live demonstrations further validate our engineering techniques and procedures to pave the way for aircraft to operate on FRP repaired airfields in the future,” said Penaranda. “Working alongside the French forces builds mutual trust, understanding and camaraderie to enhance shared training objectives and lay a foundation for future joint operations.”

Exercise Razorback also provided a platform to strengthen NATO’s collective readiness. Through collaborative training, engineers and multi capable Airmen from different nations can learn to seamlessly work together.

While nations within the NATO alliance have been working together for decades to increase the understanding of ADR, investing in joint training and exercises reinforces the commitment to collective defense and security ensuring readiness to address evolving threats effectively.

“Creating more avenues to conduct these trainings will produce combat ready forces capable of responding to global contingency operations,” Penaranda said. “If a conflict were to break out, there would not be enough engineers separately to successfully recover air bases, but together we know we are unstoppable.”