More than 25 aircraft from across the US Air Force (USAF) 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.
As explained by 1st Lt Savanah Bray, 53d Wing, in the article 53rd Wing gears up for Northern Edge 21, 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 particular, an F-15EX Eagle II took flight for the first time out of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Apr. 26, 2021, to take part in Northern Edge 2021. The F-15EX brings next-generation combat technology to a highly successful fighter airframe that is capable of projecting power across multiple domains for the Joint Force.
The result of a collaboration across industry, the US Air Force and the Air National Guard, the F-15EX is a ready-now replacement for the F-15C that includes best-in-class payload, range and speed and an all-new digital infrastructure.
In July 2020, the USAF awarded Boeing an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract for up to 200 F-15EXs to replace the undefeated but aging F-15C. The Air Force has announced initial basing locations in Florida and Oregon.
Actually, the F-15EX provides a unique opportunity for the test enterprise as it is the first USAF aircraft to be completely tested and fielded through combined developmental and operational test (DT/OT) efforts.
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.
Photo credit: 1st Lt Savanah Bray / U.S. Air Force
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