Tanker Task Force keeps Northern Edge flying

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Candice Miller
  • Northern Edge Joint Information Bureau
If a driver could fill up the car with gas without stopping, imagine how efficient driving would be. 

The Tanker Task Force here provides efficient service to drivers in the air at Northern Edge, Alaska’s joint training exercise. 

Seventeen tankers and 12 total force units from around the country refuel more than 100 jets daily during the state's largest military training exercise this year. Aerial refueling allows aircraft to continue the fight without landing. 

Eielson’s 168th Air Refueling Wing is the task force’s lead unit.

“This Tanker Task Force is really big … I mean really big," said Lt. Col. Jeff Sladko, Northern Edge operations officer. "The 168th is leading the Tanker Task Force through the exercise and doing a great job,” “We get a chance to exercise on a large scale doing our real-world mission at our home base.” 

This is the largest Tanker Task Force in more than 10 years at Eielson and the largest in any Northern Edge exercise, he said. 

Northern Edge provides the Tanker Task Force an opportunity to refuel aircraft from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Midway through the exercise the Tanker Task Force changed crews and aircraft. Chief Master Sgt. Barry Beck, 168th ARW production superintendent, said Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units often change crews during exercises to take advantage of the training opportunities. 

Maintenance issues, inspection requirements and aircraft washes also drive when and how long an aircraft will be able to fly, he said. 

“When swap-outs do occur we try to make it appear as seamless as possible so as to not disrupt the tanker flow or training syllabus,” Chief Beck said.

“An exercise with this many participants further highlights the critical role that air refueling plays in the overall strategy of the U.S. military.” said Maj. Benjamin Baker, 168th ARW maintenance commander.

Air refueling provides force extension, which allows warfighting aircraft to remain airborne longer and travel further to accomplish the mission, Major Baker said.
“Without this capability, our assets would be severely limited. The ability to provide air refueling is a huge advantage that other nations do not have,” he said. 

Units participating in the Northern Edge Tanker Task Force include:

168th ARW, Eielson AFB
507th ARW, Tinker AFB, Okla.
940th ARW, Beale AFB, Calif. 

305th ARW, McGuire AFB, N.J. 

319th ARW, Grand Forks AFB, N.D.
151st ARW, Hill AFB, Utah 

939th ARW, International Airport, Portland, Ore.
101st ARW, International Airport, Bangor, Maine 

157th ARW, International Airport, Pease, N.H.
186th ARW, International Airport, Meridian, Miss. 

107th ARW, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 

927th ARW, Selfridge Field, Mich.