Personnel of the Michigan Air National Guard (MIANG) completed a mission in Latvia during the first two weeks of June 2024, to enhance air operations and explore alternative locations for future Agile Combat Employment (ACE) and joint operations. 

From 1 March 2024, the Latvian airbase at Lielvārde has been activated as the third NATO base to host Allied fighter detachments as part go the Baltic Air Policing mission over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. 

ACE is the latest doctrine employed by Nato, with a focus on enhancing resilience and survivability in air operations. By employing dispersed operations, Allied air forces can address concerns that in a near-peer conflict, primary targeting will eliminate central airbases.

Establishing a wider network of airfields and dispersing capabilities across a region adds to the survivability profile of the force as a whole.

MIANG’s mission in June was intended to strengthen the ties between US and Latvian air power, and to build a more resilient airspace and airfield capability. It focused on improving training and defensive capabilities through an emphasis on airspace integrity and readiness. 

Beyond the search for alternative locations – which are key to ACE operations wherein aircraft take-off and land at different sites in a distributed network of airfields – the MIANG participated in a wide-ranging folio of activities to support modernisation of Latvian air forces. The principal tools were joint planning, technical consultations, and hands-on training.

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The MIANG collaborated with Latvian Armed Forces to develop Uncrewed Aerial Systems operations procedures that are geared for the distinct profile of the Latvian National Armed Forces. 

For the provision of advanced control and reporting centre capabilities, MIANG collaborated with Latvian counterparts to assess the current regional capabilities. Master Sgt. Don Witt, Alpena Combat Ready Training Centre weapons director liaison worked towards supporting Latvia in the field of Defensive Counter Air, and understanding typical fighter tactics.

“Latvian controllers are extremely proficient at ‘close’ positive control techniques, and we aim to create opportunities for ‘loose’ positive control,” said Witt. 

The assessment of potential airfields included security assessments to ensure readiness for future operations. “During our assessment we explored opportunities of alternate locations for training,” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sutton of the 127th Mission Support Group security forces. “Establishing another site would set the stage for future ACE and joint operations.”

Joint inspections provided an opportunity for Latvia to demonstrate its precision in hot-pit refuelling for high-tempo operations. “Exercises like hot pit refuelling provide invaluable training opportunities, showcasing readiness in dynamic environments,” said Staff Sgt. Keith Stanton, airfield manager with the 127th Operations Support Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base.