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Northern Edge: Military Training Exercise Will Make Alaska’s Airspace Busier Next Week

Javier Alvarez/U.S. Air Force

The skies above the Interior and Southcentral Alaska will get a lot busier starting next week, when Northern Edge 2017 gets under way. It’ll be the biggest military-training exercise to be held this year in Alaska.

The tempo of operations around Eielson Air Force Base, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson and the state’s training ranges, will pick up beginning Monday and last through May 12th. But Alaskan Command spokeswoman Capt. Anastasia Schmidt says Northern Edge training exercises will be conducted only on weekdays this year.

“We will not be exercising on the weekend, however,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt says some 6,000 personnel and about 180 aircraft from all the armed services will participate in this year’s exercise, which she says will be a bit smaller in scale than the 2015 iteration. She says the whole point of joint exercises that involve two or more services, like Northern Edge, is to provide training that enables people and equipment to work together.

Credit Suzanne Dickson/U.S. Marine Corps
Air Force Senior Airman Dylan J. Gagne, a crew chief with Eielson's 18th Aggressor Squadron works on a F-16C during Northern Edge 15 in June 2015.

“When we have these opportunities to do multiple services, we’re able to practice that interoperability,” she said. “And make sure when we do have to do a real-world operation,  we’re able to talk to each other, all of our equipment works well together – simple things like that.”

The airspace over the Gulf of Alaska also will be busier during Northern Edge, as Navy and Marine aircraft conduct training in conjunction with Navy vessels that’ll be operating in the gulf.

“There’s going to be two naval destroyers and one replenishment ship,” Schmidt said.

Personnel and equipment from the Coast Guard and Reserve and National Guard units also will participate. Northern Edge is one of a series of exercises conducted by the U.S. Pacific Command, a so-called unified combatant command that’s headquartered in Hawaii and operates throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Schmidt says residents who want to report excessive aircraft noise can call the Alaskan Command’s toll-free complaint line. That’s 1-800-JET-NOIS (1-800-538-6673).