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Nomad Lightning Strikes

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Leandra Garcia
  • 33rd Fighter Wing


One Team, One Fight

Airmen from the 33rd Fighter Wing executed Nomad Lightning, a large force employment exercise May 2-6 on the Eglin Test and Training Range.

Nomad Lightning helped prepare our nomads for future missions in the Combat Air Forces (CAF) by focusing on the tactical and logistical challenges of combat operations against our adversaries.

This exercise used mission familiarization events, mission planning cells, simulation immersion, air combat maneuvering instrumentation live-fly viewing, to provide a scale of the current threat and give Airmen a better understanding of the urgency of our training mission.

“We are trying to inspire pride and appreciation for what the 33rd FW accomplishes every day, not just during exercise week,” said Col. Patrick McGarry, 33rd FW Nomad Lightning director of training operations. “When we are in the grind of the formal training program syllabus and cranking out student sorties every day, it’s hard to see the bigger picture. We hope that by learning more about the mission, wing personnel can really connect with the critical role they play here.”

To strengthen our mission of building combat-credible Airmen, pilots, maintainers, intelligence professionals and air battle managers across the 33rd FW, Nomad Lightning had a diverse itinerary that included Agile Combat Employment (ACE) operations out of Tyndall Air Force Base, intelligence briefings on the current threat, simulator activities for wing personnel, and a simulated maritime rescue of a downed pilot with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Eight 33rd FW maintenance Airmen employed ACE tactics to perform hot pit refuelings on 10, F-35A Lightning II aircraft to ensure our jets were back in the sky quickly. To simulate an unfamiliar location they were performed at Tyndall AFB.

The hot pit refuelings were used to simulate limited resources: operations, personnel, and time, to generate sorties from anywhere with minimal delay. The ACE Airmen who participated are prepared to deploy to the CAF and support a high-end fight against our adversaries. The multi-capable airmen and execute multiple Air Force specialties at a sufficient level of proficiency dispersed forward operating locations

Additionally, 33rd FW pilots participated in aerial refuelings with the help of KC-135s from the Wisconsin Air National Guard (ANG). Eighteen F-35A aircraft were refueled throughout the week.

The refueling provided crucial training opportunities for the ANG aircrews and 33rd FW pilots, preparing them for the future of F-35A combat operations.

Our Airmen and pilots integrated into a joint rescue exercise with the U.S. Coast Guard, where personnel rehearsed a search and rescue procedure for a downed pilot offshore.

In a real-world downed pilot situation, F-35A pilots would attempt to locate the pilot in the water, mark his position and pass the coordinates to Eglin AFB mission control, who would contact the USCG to start the recovery using a vessel or helicopter.

“Our pilots flying in this exercise were able to see first-hand the challenges of trying to find someone in the water,” said Capt. Seth Freeman, 58th Fighter Squadron assistant director of training operations “In our survival kit, we have several tools available to help the pilots overhead find you. Our ‘downed pilot’ got to use several of those today, including flares and a sea dye marker.”

This joint large-force employment exercise provided detailed training for USAF, USCG and ANG personnel while showcasing ACE tactics, vital aerial refueling capabilities and an accurate timeline for a real-world rescue mission. 

Pilots from the 33rd FW garnered approximately 113 flight hours with a total of 75 sorties flown over the four-day flying period.

“We successfully executed all of the planned modules,” said McGarry. “Based on anecdotal feedback from across the wing, we did a good job of teaching personnel about the mission here and connecting them with how their hard work contributes to the critical role the 33rd FW plays in our Air Force. We’ll debrief, learn and build on the success of this event as we move forward.”