More than 25 aircraft, and hundreds of Airmen, from across the 53rd Wing are headed to Alaska in support of Northern Edge 21, INDOPACOM’s premier bi-annual exercise designed to increase joint combat effectiveness in all spectrums of warfare, May 3-14, 2021.
Included in that number are Airmen and aircraft from both Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases, Nev.
Though Northern Edge provides an elite training venue for the Combat Air Forces, for the 53rd Wing, Northern Edge is an opportunity to test software, hardware and tactics in a unique and complex environment for fighter, bomber, RPA and reconnaissance platforms.
Some notable test efforts include: F-15C software and IRST testing in a saturated environment; F-15E software, EPAWSS, and an advanced weapon demonstration; F-15EX operational test and first look at large force integration; F-35 advanced tactics with new software; B-52 long-range hypersonic kill chain integration; MQ-9 auto-take-off and landing and high-end fight capabilities; and U-2 communication gateway testing. Fourth- and fifth-generation integration is a key objective, and the 53rd Wing expects to discover and validate new battlefield synergies from F-15EX/F-35 integration.
“In the 53rd Wing, we continuously test in our own backyard, but combat isn’t happening in our backyard,” said Lt Col Mike Benitez, 53rd Wing director of staff. “The unique range assets in place at Northern Edge provide a different, unfamiliar, complex, and operationally realistic environment for the technology and the tactics we’re testing.”
Above all, for the 53rd Wing, Northern Edge is an opportunity for integrated, deep-end testing and tactics development. Northern Edge provides a combat-relevant arena to ensure test and tactics being fielded to the CAF work for the warfighter and are effective in a joint environment. The 53rd Wing’s premier test event, Black Flag, focuses on testing like we fight, in a realistic, massed force, fully integrated, high threat density environment; participating in Northern Edge directly furthers that effort.
53rd Wing participants in Northern Edge 21 include:
· 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Eglin AFB, Fla. (F-15C, F-15EX)
· 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nev. (F-15E, F-35)
· 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Creech AFB, Nev. (MQ-9)
· 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Barksdale AFB, La. (B-52)
· 53rd Test Management Group, Det 5, Beale AFB, Calif. (U-2)
Airmen from the 96th Test Wing, Air Force Material Command, and the 926th Wing, Air Force Reserve Command, to include the 84th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Eglin AFB, and 706th TES, Nellis AFB, will also attend Northern Edge alongside the 53rd Wing.