SOUTHWEST ASIA — Since April 2017, Hill Air Force Base active-duty personnel assigned to the 729th Air Control Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, have been delivering seamless battle management, command and control (BMC2) of coalition assets conducting major combat operations while deployed to the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron (EACS) in support of Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) taskings.
The 727th EACS, call sign Kingpin, is a Control and Reporting Center (CRC) operating from an undisclosed location in the Persian Gulf, with additional detachments dispersed throughout Southwest Asia. As AFCENT’s senior Tactical Command and Control (TAC C2) agency with persistent radar and radio coverage throughout the region, Kingpin delivers world-class battle management and air surveillance 24/7, 365 days a year in support of Operations Inherent Resolve, Resolute Support and the Combined Defense of the Arabian Gulf. Primary Kingpin functions include ground-based tactical control of coalition aircraft, airspace de-confliction, aerial refueling and air defense operations to guarantee air superiority and the protection of friendly ground forces.
Such a demanding operation would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of the joint and coalition forces that complement Kingpin. In addition to U.S. Air Force active duty personnel from the 729th ACS, Kingpin includes members of the Air National Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Danish Air Force. These mission partners are a force-multiplier and combine to provide equipment, maintainers and operations crew members.
In 2011, Kingpin assumed the Combined Defense of the Arabian Gulf mission, which had been previously performed by the 71st EACS, call sign Pyramid. In 2014, AFCENT decided to consolidate all ground-based BMC2 into a single location. During the consolidation process, Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) was born, leading to a reorganization that would change the future of Kingpin control. Kingpin now controls nearly 1 million square miles of airspace from the eastern edge of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean Sea and as far south as the Arabian Gulf. This unique capability makes the operational reach of Kingpin unparalleled in any battle space in the world.
With such a robust mission set, Kingpin has a significant maintenance footprint dispersed at austere locations throughout Central Command. Many separate maintenance and support specialties are essential to providing everything from radar, communications, and logistical support to administrative functions. These hard working men and women, made up mostly of members from the 729th ACS, face daily challenges to keep critical equipment fully mission capable and often mitigate challenges through innovative practices. Their dedication to mission success and ability to adapt and overcome is crucial to maintaining the renowned operational capacity that higher headquarters has come to expect from Kingpin.
Members of 729th ACS have recently found themselves at the center of historic air combat operations while assigned to Kingpin. In June, Kingpin Airmen provided crucial sensor and radio support during the F/A-18E aircraft shoot-down of a Syrian Su-22. This engagement was the first U.S. air-to-air kill since the 1999 Kosovo campaign.
Additionally, Kingpin’s unparalleled command and control of the joint battle space was critical to coalition efforts in the liberation of Mosul. Kingpin provided artillery de-confliction, close air support, and aerial refueling operations feeding the fight for a nine-month campaign executed by Iraqi security forces and coalition partners. Shortly after the victory in Mosul, Combined Joint Task Force-OIR Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend expressed his gratitude in a letter to the coalition forces, saying that “this milestone is an important victory in our collective effort to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and dismantle the so-called Caliphate.”
If you talk to any deployed member of the 729th ACS, they’ll tell you it is a challenging but rewarding experience dealing with combat operations during such a dynamic time in history.