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U.S. Air Force News

Exercise highlights Raptor synergy, joint capabilities

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elizabeth Kreft
  • 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The final mission flies today at Northern Edge 2006, but the majority of the results are already in, and success is the buzzword from Alaska. 

During the two-week joint service exercise, several scenarios have proven that the interoperability and integration between American assets are stronger than ever. 

“Alaska’s aerial ranges and airspace provide unique capabilities to train to this scope,” said Col. Steve Hatter, Northern Edge exercise director. “We are extremely pleased with what we’ve been able to see thus far.” 

One major goal of the exercise was to test and train with the Department of Defense’s newest weapons system, the F-22 Raptor. Northern Edge 2006 is the first exercise opportunity Raptor teams have had to display seamless integration with operators from the Navy, Marine Corps and Army, and to prove how the jet’s capabilities will transform the wartime environment. 

“We’ve had the chance to work with some of these assets before on a limited basis,” said Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver, 27th Fighter Squadron commander and F-22 pilot. “But this is really the first time we’ve been able to demonstrate the synergy between our resources on such a large scale.” 

Each exercise day included distinct scenarios based on air-to-air and air-to-ground tasks or personnel recovery operations. Diverse joint-service assets were incorporated to accomplish every mission, with robust air-to-air and surface-to-air threats simulated daily to investigate the enabling muscle of the F-22. 

“The Raptors gave our guys a chance to focus on their mission to find and destroy specific naval targets,” said Capt. George Mullani, 3rd Wing air-to-ground tactics chief and F-15E Strike Eagle pilot. “That was just one example of our joint domination in the airspace.” 

Though specific threats are all simulated for this exercise, pilots at Northern Edge know the dangers are real, and they are thankful for the opportunity to prepare. 

“Several forces around the world have many assets to test our country’s defenses,” Colonel Tolliver said. “Examining the interoperability of our joint operating systems is key to the success of future engagements, and to achieving confidence in each other’s abilities.” 

The F-22’s capabilities were highlighted during several air-to-air engagements that included facing an opposing force at a 4-to-1 disadvantage. In each circumstance the F-22 teams -- paired with joint-service jets such as F/A-18 Hornets, F-15C/E Eagles, E/A-6B Prowlers and E-2C Hawkeyes -- were able to soundly defeat their enemies. 

“Throughout the exercise we were able to see just how effective this jet can be at integrating with multiple joint assets for a number of different missions,” Colonel Tolliver said. “The Raptor’s success here is something that should be shared among all the services, because it means our entire force has capabilities that it didn’t have just a short time ago.” 

The F-22’s integrated avionics, stealth and supercruise ability were just some of the advantages that played into the exercise success. 

“They were able to fly in threat rings using their stealth technology, opening up doors for us,” Captain Mullani said. “Their ability to ensure air dominance gave us the opportunity to operate freely.” 

With more than 5,000 military members participating, information gathered from Northern Edge will extend far beyond the airspace. Training lessons and battlespace knowledge gained here will undoubtedly affect future U.S. military engagements.
Senior exercise leaders are confident in the overall lessons learned, especially those gathered from the F-22's involvement. 

“We have certainly proven the value of the technology leaps found in platforms like the F-22,” Colonel Hatter said. “The exercise has given Airmen and our joint forces priceless information for use in future engagements.” 

USAF. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario "Charo" Gutierrez)