April 9, 2012 (by Capt. Ashley Conner) - A mix of personnel from the 477th Fighter Group, 3rd Wing, and 673rd Air Base Wing left Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to participate in a long range strike exercise on April 4.
F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson fly over Alaska. [USAF photo by SSgt. Brian Ferguson]
F-22 Raptors and E-3's assigned to the 3rd Wing along with F-16s from Misawa Air Base, Japan, B-1's from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and KC-135s from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, participated in the U.S. Strategic Command operation. JB Elmendorf F-22s, Eielson AFB
, KC-135s and the Aggressor F-16 force operated out of Eielson AFB, while the E-3 and blue air F-16s supporting the exercise operated out of JB Elmendorf. The B-1 bombers participating in the long range strike exercise flew a 10-hour round trip sortie from Ellsworth AFB to strike their targets just east of Eielson AFB.
"The objective of this operation was to validate the long range strike capability of the B-1s as well as the F-22 and F-16s ability to escort them into an anti-access target area," said Lt. Col. Joseph Kunkel, 90th Fighter Squadron commander, who sent five 90th FS
pilots, a 302d FS pilot, 20 maintainers, a flight surgeon and a bio environmental engineer to Eielson AFB for the exercise.
This was the first time the Raptors participated in this exercise which integrated with multiple platforms from different major commands. It was also the first time that increment 3.1, a recent F-22 hardware and software upgrade, was used in a large force employment exercise.
"Increment 3.1 gives the Raptor the means to find and engage targets on the ground. During this operation it was critical to follow-on forces completing their missions," said Kunkel. "Our integration of 3.1 went extremely well. We were able to glean invaluable lessons from this exercise that we had not seen before and we completed increment 3.1 upgrades for two of the pilots."
The operation was conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex near Eielson AFB. The 65,000 square mile air space provides a diverse training environment allowing pilots to train realistically and jointly in situations similar to what they'll face in combat.
While this was the first time increment 3.1 and the Raptors participated in this exercise it was not the first time the Reserve F-22 pilots assigned to the 302nd FS which falls under the 477th FG integrated with the active duty. Since the unit was activated in 2007 pilots and maintainers have integrated in all aspects of the 3rd Wing's F-22 operations.
"This realistic training is a result of high quality Airmen leveraging new capabilities on an excellent training range, " said Col. Tyler Otten, 477th Fighter Group deputy commander. "This is a great example of total force integration partners working together to accomplish our shared mission."