25th FS strengthens air-to-ground capabilities in EPIC FOG 24-1

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Thomas Sjoberg
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 25th Fighter Squadron participated in the routine training event, EPIC FOG 24-1, Dec. 11 - 15, 2023, focusing on close air support or CAS, forward air control or FAC and air-to-air refueling, to enhance operational capabilities.

The training took place on the eastern side of the Korean peninsula and brought together joint and international partners including the U.S. Army 1st and 2nd Striker Brigade Combat Team, the 8th Fighter Wing and the Republic of Korea Air Force 261st Air Refueling Squadron. Capt. Keenan Allen, 25th Fighter Squadron current operations flight commander, described the training as critical for pilots to hone their skills in combined air-to-ground operations.

"The main goal of EPIC FOG was to exercise our support for large-scale combat operations in air-to-ground conflicts," said Allen. "This training is exactly what CAS and attack pilots dream of, as it challenges us to utilize the full diversity of our skill sets while enhancing our understanding of integration with our joint and international partners.”

During the training, several 25th FS pilots earned their airborne forward air controller, or FAC(A), qualifications, further strengthening the squadron's capability to deliver coordinated joint air combat power. A FAC(A) pilot is a qualified aviation officer who coordinates air support for ground troops, functioning as an airborne link with ground-based joint terminal attack controllers.

“Essentially, a FAC(A) works in conjunction with a JTAC to facilitate the fire of airborne assets,” Allen explained. “This mission set brings a plethora of capabilities to the fight. An effective FAC(A) shortens the timeline of engagement from air assets through detailed integration and planning with ground maneuver units. In the air, the FAC(A) finds and nominates targets, tasks assets to targets and ensures positive deconfliction to effectively neutralize those targets.”

Collaboration was a key theme of the event. For the first time ever, the 25th FS conducted air-to air refueling with ROKAF KC-330s, providing realistic, effective training for pilots during simulated bilateral combat operations.

“EPIC FOG 24-1 was the first to include ROKAF KC-330/A-10 aerial refueling," said Maj. Justin Ledvina 25th Fighter Squadron director of operations. "This was the first opportunity for many of our pilots to refuel with a ROKAF tanker. [Air-to air refueling] enhances our fighters' capabilities by increasing both their operational range and the duration they can remain engaged in combat. The ROKAF's support not only granted us extended training time in the airspace, but also fostered mutual trust in our capabilities and an understanding of our limitations.”

Ledvina said the 25th FS intends to keep hosting EPIC FOG, bringing together different units, services, and allies for advanced CAS training in the future.

“EPIC FOG allows us the opportunity to work with our joint and combined partners in a CAS-focused environment,” Ledvina said. “From this integration, we’re able to learn from each other, enhance interoperability and strengthen relationships. Ultimately, the EPIC FOG series creates a more lethal joint and combined force.”