US military begins Northern Edge 2017 joint training exercise
The US military has begun Northern Edge 2017 (NE17), a joint training exercise in Alaska to prepare joint forces to respond to crises in the Asia-Pacific region.
The biennial exercise takes place throughout the state and surrounding waterways and is a series of the US Pacific Command exercise.
Alaskan Command and 11th Air Force Commander Alaskan NORAD Region Air Force lieutenant general Ken Wilsbach said that the exercise is aimed to sharpen tactical combat skills, improve command, control and communication relationships, and develop interoperable plans and programmes across the joint force.
Participants involved in the exercise are airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines and coast guardsmen from active duty, Reserve and National Guard units.
Major participating units include US Pacific Command, Alaskan Command, US Pacific Fleet, Pacific Air Forces, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, and US Army Pacific. Other important contributors are Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Materiel Command, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command, and US Naval Reserve.
The Alaskan Command-led exercise will see participation from 6,000 service members, 200 fixed-wing aircraft and maritime forces, and several different types of equipment.
US Air Force 3rd Wing commander colonel Christopher Niemi said: "What's unique is the fact that Alaska offers us the opportunity to put this large number of aircraft together in both overland and overwater airspace.
"When you look at the airspace available in the lower 48 [states], it's typically constrained with the number of airline routes you have."
The exercise will also provide tactical opportunities to integrate fourth and fifth-generation aircraft and F-22s and F-35s flying together.
Image: An F-22 Raptor takes off while an EA 18 G Growler taxis out to take-off position. Photo: courtesy of Photo by Sargeant First Class Joel Gibson.