920th Rescue Wing Develops Improved Combat Rescue Structure > Air Force > Article Display

After two years of evaluation and validation, the 920th Rescue Wing established an enhanced staff recovery task force (PRTF) along with revised tactics, techniques and procedures with specific design to prevent competitors from exploiting isolated personnel.

The structure distributes the forces in light, medium and heavy configurations which are able to maneuver and sustain organically in all operating environments. In close collaboration with the Air Force Agile combat employment applications, the new PRTF structure utilizes multi-capable Airmen from across the wing to provide offensive and defensive capabilities during personnel recovery, contingency location establishment, and intra-theater airlift operations.

Historically, personnel recovery has been achieved piecemeal with right-sized solutions due to traditional force structure models, which do not always present the right forces for the task.

“Over 40 years of Air Force rescue in the same way offers combatant commanders no tactical advantage over their competitors. The PRTF is an idea whose time has come. It is powerful, agile and has options of self-contained personnel recovery, kinetic agile combat employment, and kinetic intra-theater airlift in contested maritime and jungle environments,” said Col. John Dobbin, 920th Rescue Wing Commander.

The new design incorporates force distribution in three configurations based on operational requirements. PRTF-Light consists of two HH-60G Paving Hawk helicopters, a HC-130J Combat King II plane and two Guardian angel (AG) teams. The PRTF-Medium will contain four HH-60Gs, two HC-130Js and four GA teams. The PRTF-Heavy will have eight HH-60G plus backup aircraft, five HC-130J plus backup aircraft and eight GA teams.

The force projection of the PRTF is provided by a small, versatile team of wing maintainers and mission sustainment specialists who deploy to provide self-sustainment and self-sustaining operations and sustainment. This ACE element enables organic tactical communications, security, logistics and aircraft maintenance with a mindset that anticipates rather than reacts to operational needs.

The PRTF relies on strategic airlift for delivery in theater, but ongoing testing is pursuing autonomous PRTF force projection through the transport of HH-60G/W helicopters inside the wing’s HC-130Js. Until then, the Wing gains efficiency in its multi-capable Airman applications that reduce strategic air requirements to move through a theater of operations from previous years.

The wing refined the new structure through its annual wing training plan. Their HThe orizon series of exercises are conducted at the squadron, group and wing level throughout the year, involving deployment scenarios that culminate in the annual Fury Horizon and Distant Horizon exercises that take place in the whole world. This validated the tactics, techniques, and procedures as an effective way to perform combat rescue.

“Our goal is to Indo-Pacific Region, who provides an incredible opportunity and challenge for the Special Warfare Airmen and Special Purpose Aircraft in our Wing. This region requires our new PRTF-Heavy capability to conduct a multilateral rescue assault on a defended incident point. A point of incident which may be more than 300 airmen isolated at an initial or temporary contingency location, isolated and dispersed elements, or Air Force individuals and joint combatants as well as mass casualties at sea said Dobbin.

The -light, -medium and -heavy PRTF structure aligns the wing’s resources with the Air Force Chief of Staff lead wing frame and is sustainable across the Total Force when risk-based priorities determine which combatant command request for forces is the highest priority. The PRTF itself solves resource allocation and balancing issues through its scalable application, command and control, and using low-tech capabilities to counter high-tech adversaries.

“It is scalable and flexible to give a combatant commander more options for broad-spectrum personnel recovery,” said Lt. Col. John Lowe, 920th RQW Fusion Cell Chief.

This year, the Wing deployed the PRTF-Medium as part of an Indo-Pacific exercise where the Wing tested all-domain joint command and control, which integrated the Wing with joint and organizations to execute deliberate and immediate combat rescue missions.

The 920th RQW is a combined arms team of special mission personnel and aircraft whose mission is to plan, direct and conduct military rescue operations and missions to deter competitors and adversaries from exploiting isolated personnel.