10,000 service members begin ‘massive’ military training exercise
Military officials advise Alaskans to expect aircraft noise, Gulf of Alaska naval operations during Northern Edge
More than 10,000 U.S. service members have launched Northern Edge 2023, Alaska’s biggest military training exercise of the year. The Air Force says it’s Alaska’s premier training exercise.
“It’s a massive exercise,” says Air Force Maj. Clay Lancaster. “A lot of (additional) personnel are in the state of Alaska. A lot of aircraft have flown in for the exercise.”
Lancaster is chief public affairs officer for the 683th Air Base Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, or JBER. He says this year’s Northern Edge includes more than 150 aircraft from the Air Force and Navy and the U.K. and Australia, both of which have sent personnel and warplanes to the biennial exercise.
A Pacific Air Forces news release says the allies will help trainers provide “an opportunity for joint, multinational and multi-domain operations designed to provide high-end, realistic war-fighter training, develop and improve joint interoperability and enhance the combat readiness of participating forces.”
Lancaster says having service members from allied nations and two branches of the U.S. military makes it an even better training opportunity.
“It’s very important to be able to train in a joint environment,” he added, “and that’s why we’re so grateful for the state of Alaska with the incredible training spaces here.”
That includes the 65,000 square miles of airspace above the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, a network of training areas scattered around the state and 42,000 square nautical miles offshore, along with and additional temporary maritime activities areas.
Lancaster said in an interview Monday that the Navy “established these maritime training areas there in the Gulf of Alaska, and it gives them a significant capability to train.” He said the Navy is bringing four warships to this year’s exercise: the USS Zumwalt and USS Momsen, two guided-missile destroyers; USS Lake Champlain guided-missile cruiser; and the USS Harpers Ferry dock-landing ship.
The Momsen docked at Homer last week for a two-day visit.
Lancaster said Alaskans can expect to see a lot of military activity in those parts of the gulf during the exercise, and aircraft activity around Alaska’s two Air Force bases -- Eielson, near Fairbanks, and JBER, near Anchorage.
“They kind of take off and land on the bases, and they go up to the JPARC and they do their business,” he said, “and then they come back and they land at Eielson, they land at JBER.”
Some of the aircraft will be also operating out of both Fairbanks and Anchorage international airports.
Lancaster said most of the activity will take place during weekday mornings and afternoons. He says the Air Force and Navy also have been trying to inform hunters, commercial fishermen and others in remote areas about increased aircraft and naval activity during the exercise.