Northern Edge aims for air, sea dominance

  • Published
  • By Marine Lance Cpl. Ethan Hoaldridge
  • Northern Edge Joint Information Bureau
“Our end result (of Northern Edge 2006) is to establish complete dominance in the air and at sea,” said Col. John Marselus, chief of the Joint Exercise Division, or JED, for U.S. Alaskan Command.

The focus of the annual joint-service exercise is to prepare joint forces to respond to crises in the Asian Pacific region, in part by developing plans and programs that integrate the different services. From that standpoint, the exercise, wrapping up its first week of play, is a success already.

“We’re on the leading edge of joint interoperability between (aircraft) integration and combat air-to-air and air-to-ground operations,” Colonel Marselus said.

Participating units in Northern Edge are designated as “blue,” simulating allied forces, or “red,” enemy forces. Warfare scenarios played out in the exercise are designed by the JED.

“In the spirit of joint cooperation, each service is taking turns simulating opposing forces,” said Marselus.

Each day offers new challenges. Blue forces don’t know how they’ll be confronted by their red opponents, but they will have to react appropriately to meet their objective. The Ohio National Guard simulates most of the red forces for the exercise, while Air Force F-15 Eagles and Marine F-18 Hornets switch between blue and red to vary the warfare scenarios.

During the first week of the exercise, the daily focus has been either air-to-air tactics, air-to-ground tactics or personnel recovery. For example, Air Force F-22 Raptors and F-15 Eagles went against Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, and Navy F-18 Hornets and EA-6B Prowlers in an air-to-air combat scenario yesterday, Colonel Marselus said.
The second and final week of the exercise will be a full integration of air-to-air, air-to-ground and personnel recovery scenarios simultaneously in the Gulf of Alaska with two Navy destroyers, the USS Chafee and the USS O’Kane.

“During this exercise, we are honing the skills of America’s joint team -- Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines -- taking full advantage of the unique capabilities each has to offer,” Colonel Marselus said.

The F-22 also brings a new element to the joint-service training environment.
“The F-22 is able to engage the enemy in threat environments where other planes can’t go because of its avionics, super cruise and stealth capabilities,” the colonel said. “This is the first time the F-22 has deployed outside the (continental) U.S. and the first time that we’ve had this many aircraft from all branches of service participate in such a large-scale exercise.

“We are literally writing the book in many areas at both the operational and tactical level of warfare,” he said.

Northern Edge, which ends June 16, is one of a series of U.S. Pacific Command exercises held this year designed to prepare joint forces for worldwide deployment, enabling real-world proficiency in detection and tracking of units at sea, in the air and on land.