• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 45s

Military aircraft take off for Northern Edge 2017

By Bonney Bowman Photojournalist: Jared Mazurek - 5:58 PM May 2, 2017

Northern Edge 2017 is underway around Alaska. More than 150 military planes are taking part, flying from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks.

Commanders say this exercise is the closest thing to real that combat pilots can experience while still training, in part due to the size of the arena at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (J-PARC).

“We have a great opportunity because of the size of the range space– the size of Florida– to train and maximize our assets, because of the space and because of the freedom of maneuver that large space allows,” said Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Commander of the 11th Air Force, Alaska NORAD and Alaskan Command.

“We can replicate the environment that we think we would face in a high-end scenario,” said Col. Christopher Niemi, 3rd Wing Commander. “It makes our pilots and our maintainers and our operators better because we have the opportunity to expose them to that environment so they can get experience and they’ll be better prepared.”

The training scenario is blue versus red, with fourth-generation fighters like F15s squaring off against fifth-generation F22s– and for the first time at Northern Edge, F35s.

“When you’re dealing with something that’s completely new and as complex as the F35, despite our best efforts, there’s going to be some surprises and we’re going to learn some things,” said Niemi.

The pilots don’t just have the other planes to worry about. The exercise also brings in challenges like surface to air missiles and cyber hacking.

“Those capabilities are being utilized, and, of course, we’re all learning what the F35 can do– including those crews– so, it’s a great benefit to see how all of it comes together– Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, over land, over water, and so there’s a tremendous benefit at the end of this exercise,” said Wilsbach.

The exercise is a preview of what’s to come for Alaska. Two F35 squadrons are planned for Eielson, arriving in 2020.

The size of Northern Edge is also a challenge for JBER leadership, who have to house personnel and equipment.

“We’ve got over 2000 visitors here participating in this exercise. We managed to find on-base lodging for about 1100 of them. The other 900 plus are downtown, contributing to the local economy,” said Col. George Dietrich, Commander of JBER and the 673rd Air Base Wing. “It’s a team effort to support an exercise this big.”

The current national security climate is giving this exercise a sense of urgency.

“Here at JBER, we’re always going to be ready to respond to any real-world event and we’ve had some recent real-world examples of that response,” said Dietrich, referring to the recent close contact with Russian Bear Bombers.

There is a naval component to Northern Edge. The Navy is conducting operations in the Gulf of Alaska. That part of the exercise has been controversial, with coastal communities and environmental groups concerned over the effect the training will have on fish and marine mammals.

Northern Edge, which runs through May 12, is the first of three big exercises planned this summer in Alaska. There are also two Red Flag events scheduled.

Correction: A previous version of this story gave the incorrect title Lt. Col. Ken Wilsbach. It has been amended. 

Latest Stories

  • News

    Stubbs, Talkeetna’s honorary cat mayor, dies

    by Chris Klint on Jul 22, 22:25

    Stubbs, Talkeetna’s honorary cat mayor beloved by Alaskans and tourists alike, has died at the age of 20 according to the animal’s owners. Stubbs’ death was announced late Saturday in a statement from the Spone family, which purchased Nagley’s General Store and the West Rib Pub and Grill in 2015. Part of the contract, the […]

  • New White House communications director deletes old tweets contradicting Trump

    by CBS/AP on Jul 22, 19:55

    A day after accepting a top White House job, President Trump’s new communications director announced Saturday that he’s deleting old tweets that were critical of his new boss, saying his own views have evolved and that what he said in the past shouldn’t be a distraction. Full transparency: I'm deleting old tweets. Past views evolved […]

  • News

    Car-motorcycle crash hurts 2, closes Old Seward Highway south of Dowling Road

    by Chris Klint on Jul 22, 19:05

    The Old Seward Highway was closed Saturday night south of Dowling Road in both directions by a car-motorcycle collision that injured two people. Alaska road-conditions website 511.alaska.gov first mentioned the wreck at Old Seward near 69th Avenue shortly after 6 p.m. Anchorage police Sgt. Dawn Neer, at the scene, said a motorcycle had been headed […]

  • News

    Efforts continue to save Anchorage’s 4th Avenue Theatre

    by Dave Leval on Jul 22, 17:38

    There’s no denying Sandy Harper loves the 4th Avenue Theatre. “The theater has been here longer than I have,” said Harper, who has called Anchorage home for 30 years. The building has been part of the downtown Anchorage skyline for more than twice that, a span of 70 years. “I don’t think there’s anything like […]

  • Dozens hospitalized for excessive drinking at Chance The Rapper concert

    by CBS/AP on Jul 22, 17:28

    HARTFORD, Conn. — More than 90 people were hospitalized Friday during a concert featuring Chance the Rapper in Connecticut, officials said. A large number of people hospitalized were underage attendees experiencing “severe intoxication,” Hartford Deputy Chief Brian Foley said Saturday. Foley said officers made 50 underage drinking referrals Friday at Hot 93.7′s Hot Jam concert at Xfinity Theatre. […]

  • News

    Coast Guard: Kodiak missile test could occur as early as next week

    by Associated Press on Jul 22, 14:15

    KODIAK, Alaska (AP) – The U.S. Coast Guard says a launch from the Kodiak Island rocket launch complex in Alaska will occur as soon as next week. The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports a U.S. Coast Guard notice released Wednesday states the launch is scheduled to occur at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska between 7 p.m. on […]

  • Son charged in death of father whose body was left on couch for weeks

    by CBS/AP on Jul 22, 14:12

    FRACKVILLE, Pa. — A man has been charged with killing his father, who authorities say was shot to death and his body then left on a couch in his home for weeks. Tyler Swantek, 24, faces charges in Schuylkill County including criminal homicide, first- and third-degree murder, aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse in the […]

  • News

    Search suspended for man overboard from skiff in Prince William Sound

    by Chris Klint on Jul 22, 13:21

    The U.S. Coast Guard spent much of Friday looking for a man who fell overboard from a skiff on the west side of Prince William Sound, but was unable to locate any sign of him. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said that the man went overboard at about 2 a.m. Friday from a commercial […]