June 24th, 2006
F-22 Northren Edge Results info
Northern Edge Joint Information Bureau |
ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska – Every competition needs a winner and a loser. And somebody’s gotta play the bad guy. In Northern Edge, the annual joint-service air exercise taking place in Alaska now, the players distinguish between the good – dubbed the Blue Air – and the bad, the Red Air.
In the real world, Northern Edge’s joint forces must face real enemies, and because the exercise strives to be as realistic as possible, some of the players have to provide Red Air, replicating “enemy” combat tactics and operations against the Blue, or Allied forces.
Over 100 U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy aircraft are playing the enemy for the exercise.
“The Red-Air support has been top-notch throughout the exercise,” said Col. Thomas Bergeson, 1st Fighter Wing Operations Group commander and F-22A Raptor pilot. “It has been impressive, not only because of the sheer number of jets in the air, but also because they’ve provided very challenging tactics simulating fourth-generation threats.
“On top of it all, they've done it in a very safe and professional manner,” he said.
During one training scenario, the Blue force faced a fleet of 32 Red jets – F-16 Fighting Falcons and F/A-18 Hornets – which regenerated several times each, providing the firepower of 103 “enemy” fighters. That’s a record number, according to Colonel Bergeson.
“I'm not sure if that’s official or not,” he said jokingly. “But it is the largest number of Red Air I've ever flown against, and it was unprecedented training for all the Blue Air forces.”
A team of seven F-22 Raptors and 24 F-15 Eagles took on the Red Air package in that scenario, accumulating 83 simulated “kills” with only one simulated Blue loss. Even with one Eagle lost, the Blue Air team was able to defeat its adversaries without regeneration of the jets, and without the simulation of a weapons reload.
Being the bad guy may seem easy, but planning for Red Air in every scenario can be very difficult. “Orchestrating that many jets and all those tactics quite often makes the Red Air side more challenging to manage than the Blue,” Colonel Bergeson said.
Playing the Red Air role is beneficial for the pilots, many of whom are assigned to the 18th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, Toledo.
“Were playing the bad guys, of course, but it still benefits us because we have to coordinate as many as 40 aircraft in the air; that’s great experience for mission commanders,” said Maj. Rebecca Ohm, a pilot assigned to the 112th Fighter Squadron of the 180th FW.
As the exercise progresses, the Red forces raise the level of tactics and operations, ramping up to more difficult warfare scenarios. Each day, they seek to discover and exploit any weakness in the Blue force’s tactics – which are duly noted in the briefings held after the day’s flying has been completed.
The joint forces would not be able to advance their strategies without the level of support provided by the “enemy,” and the Red forces are doing a terrific job, according to Colonel Bergeson. “Our hats are certainly off to the Ohio [Air National] Guard guys who have acted as the package commanders.”
The Blue force pilots are likewise thankful for the aggressive training.
“Without great red-air support, we wouldn’t have the lessons learned to upgrade our tactics,” said Capt. James Akers, assigned to 27th Fighter Squadron of the 1st Air Wing, Langley AFB, Va. He’s the F-22A Raptor mission commander. “The other pilots did an excellent job of representing possible threats in the Asian-Pacific theater.”
Northern Edge, which ends June 16, is one of a series of U.S. Pacific Command exercises held this year designed to prepare joint forces for worldwide deployment, enabling real-world proficiency in detection and tracking of units at sea, in the air, and on land.
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