US ALASKAN Command staged Exercise NORTHERN EDGE 2004 between June 7 and 16, a joint service training exercise at Elmendorf AFB, Eielson AFB and from USS John C Stennis (CVN 74) operating in the Gulf of Alaska, involving over 160 aircraft.

This was the first time Exercise NORTHERN EDGE had been held in June — it is usually held during the winter to maximise night and cold weather training — but the timing was changed to accommodate the worldwide scheduling of units and a carrier strike group.

More than 9,000 service personnel from all five services took part, including reserve and National Guard units. The focus of the exercise was on air-centric tactics and procedures, command and control relationships and interoperability among the services. Participating aircrew flew air-to-air, air-to-ground, and personnel recovery operations over remote areas of the Pacific Alaska Range Complex (PARC) near Fairbanks and over the Gulf of Alaska.

B-52Hs from the 2nd Bomb Wing based at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, took part in the exercise for the first time. Operating from Hickam AFB, Hawaii, the B-52 crew flew to Alaska to exercise their ability to communicate and co-ordinate with forward air controllers operating from within the Alaskan ranges. The B-52s and their crew are currently forward-deployed within the Pacific Air Forces theatre, assigned to the 36th Air Expeditionary Wing at Andersen AFB, Guam.

The US Marine Corps deployed F/A-18DS of VMFA(AW)-225 ‘Vikings’ from MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, to take part in the exercise. The squadron undertook close air support, defensive counter air exercises, maritime integration, special operations and personnel recovery operations.

EA-6B Prowlers from the US Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9 (VX-9), based at NAWS China Lake, California, deployed to Elmendorf AFB to test the aircraft’s new ICAP III (Improved Capabilities System III) jamming system. During NORTHERN EDGE, missions flown by VX-9 test pilots provided a Suppression of Enemy Air Defence capability with the ICAP III system for the first time in an exercise environment.

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