Defense

May 19, 2017
 

Dragon Lady makes historic appearance at Northern Edge 17

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze
JB Elmendord-Richardson, Alaska

A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot prepares to take off during exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 11, 2017. The joint training exercise is focused on interoperability and hosting approximately 6,000 service members, 200 fixed-wing aircraft and provides the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard with critical training.

Looking across the flight line at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska during previous Northern Edge exercises one would have seen a mass of gray and white aircraft, but this year the distinctly black U-2 Dragon Lady from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., made its presence known for the first time at Northern Edge, and showcased the unique capabilities it can bring to the joint fight.

Northern Edge is Alaska’s premier joint training exercise, hosting approximately 6,000 service members, 200 fixed wing aircraft and maritime forces represented by every branch of the military. The focus of the exercise is on interoperability, and it takes place throughout the state and surrounding waterways.

The two-week exercise was utilized by the 9th Reconnaissance Wing to test new experimental technology on the U-2. This technology fully integrated the Dragon Lady with 4th and 5th generation aircraft.

“It’s a big stepping stone for us,” said Maj. Dustin, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, Wing Tactics Office, weapons school development branch chief. “It’s the first year the U-2 has participated in Northern Edge. The fact that we have forward deployed to Alaska, we’ve taken over 130 personnel from the 9RW and deployed them out to JBER is an achievement.”

The diverse team of Airmen and civilians that the 9RW sent to Northern Edge 17 worked closely to accomplish the mission at JBER.

A U-2 Dragon Lady takes off during exercise Northern Edge 17, May 8, 2017. The U-2 is participating for the first time in Northern Edge.

“The comradery with everyone has been great, all of us working together to get the mission done, and it has gone really smoothly,” said Staff Sgt. David Labarge, 9th Physiological Support Squadron full pressure suit technician supervisor. “It was very rewarding to be a part of the crew that launched the first (U-2) from here in 30 years.”

Operating the U-2 program away from home and in a temporary environment brought about unique challenges in contrast to being back at Beale.

“There are several differences for 9th PSPTS; we are working out of a smaller shop, we only have three Airmen deployed here,” said Labarge. “We are also working hand in hand with maintenance closer than we normally do back at Beale.”

Those in support of the U-2 spent a total of four weeks at JBER including two weeks of preparation and two weeks of active flying during the exercise, and for the team the benefits of participating are clear.

A U-2 Dragon lady pilot touches the nose of the aircraft before takeoff during exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 10, 2017. The U-2 participated for the first time in Northern Edge, which is a biennial joint training exercise involving approximately 6,000 personnel and 200 fixed-wing aircraft, and dates back to 1975.

“The benefits of coming to Northern Edge are two-fold. It allows us to exercise our ability to forward deploy to other locations. Most importantly it allows the U-2 to demonstrate new advanced technology that is coming out, such as sensor and communication packages,” said Dustin. “This environment will allow the U-2 to advance into the future.”

The experience gained and technology tested at this large joint exercise is indispensable and will help carry the U-2 forward.

“We frequently fly exercises out of Beale. In the future we are looking to take the U-2 to other locations to participate in more exercises after this successful run at Northern Edge,” said Maj. Brian, Det. 2, 53rd Test and Evaluation Group, director of operations for U-2 and RQ-4 operational tests. “By merging test development, operational test and experimental technologies, we are looking at opportunities to advance the U-2 program in both the near term as well as the next 2-5 years. By doing all three of those things we are encompassing the entire spectrum of the future of the U-2.”
 

Senior Airman Aaron Wood, 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, talks to the pilot of a U-2 Dragon Lady before takeoff at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 11, 2017.

 

U-2 Dragon lady pilot adjusts his helmet during pre-flight at exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 8, 2017.

 

Tech Sgt. Ryan Allan, 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, performs a pre-flight inlet inspection of a U-2 Dragon Lady at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 8, 2017.

 

A U-2 Dragon Lady prepares to land during exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 8, 2017.

 

9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen, perform a pre-flight inspection of a U-2 Dragon Lady at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 8, 2017.

 

U-2 Dragon lady pilot pre-breaths pure Oxygen before takeoff during exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 9, 2017.

 

A U-2 Dragon Lady can be seen in front of an air traffic control tower during exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 9, 2017.

 

9th Physiological Support Squadron launch and recovery technicians, conduct a pre-flight inspection on a full-pressure suit at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 8, 2017.

 

Staff Sgt. Brad Wiebelhaus, 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician, performs a pre-flight inspection of a U-2 Dragon Lady at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 8, 2017.

 

A U-2 Dragon Lady taxis after landing during exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 8, 2017.

 

A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot climbs to the cockpit during exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 9, 2017.




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