A look inside integrated deterrence in the heartland of America

A B-2 Spirit taxis on the runway prior to nighttime flying operations as part of Exercise Agile Tiger, April 5, 2022 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The exercise provided personnel the opportunity to practice operational unpredictability while assuring partners and allies the total force is prepared to execute operations and global strike anytime, anywhere. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Devan Halstead)

509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

By 2nd Lt. Kristi Stiles


Whiteman Air Force Base concluded the first iteration of Exercise Agile Tiger, designed to improve joint warfighter lethality through high fidelity mission planning, execution and debrief.

The exercise enhanced participants’ ability to communicate, collaborate and operate together, ensuring unity of effort across the joint force.

Over the course of four days, 15 active duty, Reserve and National Guard units from across the Department of Defense collaborated in multiple DoD airspaces, made up of thousands of square miles, across the Midwest to train. Fighters, bombers, refuelers and other support units launched from six bases daily to engage in interoperability training missions.

Realistic interoperability training like Exercise Agile Tiger is critical for real-world success. As the first iteration, this exercise is an investment national defense.

“I’m pretty impressed with the team here for coming up with this on their own. This is the true definition of innovative Airmen: seeing the need for something and making it happen,” said Col. Daniel Diehl, 509th Bomb Wing commander. “By bringing all the different players here, we can see where the gaps and seams in our training are, how our Airmen need to innovate in order to win in the future, and take those lessons and start applying them.”

Exercise Agile Tiger tests operational unpredictability through Agile Combat Employment concepts. Applying ACE concepts to training creates an adaptable, prepared joint force to credibly deter adversaries, assure allies and partners, and be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges.

“The operational environment is defined by new challenges and modern capabilities,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Gebara8th Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center commander. “Our agile combat employment efforts provide on-call combat operations around the globe. Agile, back-to-basics training gets us to where we need to be. This exercise proves we are able to seamlessly integrate with other weapons systems in the field when called upon. We will remain always ready to compete, deter and win.”

A key objective of the exercise is to replicate and predict real-world scenarios. From mission conception to execution, including more units with varied capabilities allows for a higher degree of realism.

Operators and intelligence Airmen designed complex scenarios to mimic contested combat environments, both in the air and on the ground. A-10C Thunderbolt II, UH-60 Black Hawk and Joint Terminal Attack Controller units engaged in advanced survival, evasion, resistance, and escape scenarios. Pilots collaborated through high-fidelity mission planning, crafting their best attack plan. Once in the air, B-2 Spirits and F-35 Lightning IIs integrated with B-1 Lancers and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft for coordinated attacks including long-range stand-off munitions.

A T-38 Talon and two F-35 Lightning IIs fly in formation over Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 5, 2022 during the first iteration of Exercise Agile Tiger. The aircraft, demonstrating the interoperability of the Air Force, was a four-day training event designed to improve joint warfighter lethality through high fidelity mission planning, execution, and debrief. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Garcia)

Throughout the exercise, on-going communication and operability is critical. The E-3 Sentry provided a real-time threat picture and coordination of the battlespace. Additionally, numerous air refueling wings across the nation ensured the mission capability of all aircraft by operating the KC-135 Stratotanker, the KC-46A Pegasus and a KC-10 Extender, staged out of Whiteman AFB.

Challenging the participants’ capabilities in simulated combat environments sparks innovative thinking, to increase their survivability and combat lethality. Exercise Agile Tiger demonstrates the greatest American combat advantage is not only our technology, but in our creative service members’ ability to adapt, work together, and overcome adversity … anytime, anywhere.

“It’s important for me as the wing commander to ensure that the B-2 maintains its competitive advantage for years to come,” Diehl said. “We are still the leading edge of the fight, as it needs to be. We are still making sure that we are the force that can fight tonight, and the more opportunity we provide to have realistic training scenarios ensures we can maintain that competitive advantage.”

Senior Airman Bailey Shuff of the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, operates a refueling truck during a hot-pit refuel of a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber during Exercise Agile Tiger on Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 4, 2022. Exercise Agile Tiger was a 509th-led interoperability training exercise which combined and honed the skills of active duty, guard, and reserve U.S. Military Forces to ensure combat-readiness. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Kelly C. Ferguson)