Airmen participated in the first Combat Ammunition Production Exercise July 16-19 at RAF Lakenheath, England. Staff photo by Amy McCullough.
RAF LAKENHEATH, England—Munitions airmen across US Air
Forces in Europe wrapped up the first Combat Ammunition Production Exercise in
theater here on Thursday, where they got hands-on experience with a variety of
During the four-day exercise—also known as CAPEX—Total Force
airmen from Lakenheath; Aviano AB,
Italy; Spangdahlem AB, Germany; Ramstein AB, Germany; RAF Alconbury, England;
Beale AFB, Calif.; and Little Rock AFB, Ark., built, transported, and tore down
between 800 and 1,000 live munitions, including joint air-to-surface standoff
missiles, air-to-air missiles, joint direct attack munitions, laser-guided
bombs, and small diameter bombs.
The exercise, which was funded primarily through the
European Deterrence Initiative, was a significant departure from day-to-day
operations in which mostly inert munitions are used. Although not intentionally
planned this way, it also coincided with F-15 surge operations at the base, more
closely simulating real-world combat operations. As teams built the weapons and
loaded them onto vehicles to transport to quality check, F-15E Strike Eagles consistently
“Most people train like they fight. If you’re on the
flightline, you launch and recover jets, whether it’s training or war. In
munitions, it’s way different muscle movements and muscle memory you need from
routine support to full combat operations,” Maj. Dan Connors, commander of the
48th Munitions Squadron, told Air Force Magazine during an exercise tour.
Before CAPEX, basically the only chance Lakenheath airmen
got to work with live munitions was when they deployed (or were preparing to
deploy), or when they attended training at the Air Force Combat Ammunitions
Center at Beale.
“At the strategic level in USAFE, they saw a need for us to
show our capabilities in this part of the world because of how they are posturing,”
said SMSgt. Dan Cain, production flight chief with the 48th Munitions Squadron
and lead planner of the exercise. Cain said the exercise not only tested
airmen’s technical ability to build bombs, it also helped identify areas where
the squadron needs more support and/or resources from higher headquarters.
The command hopes to regularly host CAPEX at rotating bases
in Europe, much the way Pacific Air Forces does, said Cain.
“We have a youth movement in the Air Force, as we’re
growing,” said Connors. “With that, … training experience is the challenge of the
day. There is no better way to get a massive amount of training than the
baptism they get through CAPEX here. They get full immersion. They have a
demand, they have to rise and meet it, as they build.”
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