by Staff Sgt. William Banton
NE15 Joint Information Bureau Public Affairs
6/25/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Exercise
Northern Edge 2015 played host to a "force multiplier" capability
giving operational commanders flexibility when employing tactical
aircraft in a rapidly changing battle scenario.
The F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter is according to Navy.mil the nation's
first strike fighter, was designed for traditional strike applications
such as interdiction and close air support without compromising its
fighter capabilities. But how do you integrate traditional strike
applications in to the Northern Edge exercise environment, which is
designed to sharpen tactical combat skills, improve command, control and
communication relationships, and develop joint interoperability?
"A lot of the tactics are very similar [between the services], obviously
there are different capabilities on both sides but for the most part,
at the base line, the tactics are relatively similar," U.S. Navy Lt.
Nicholas Fritzhand, F/A-18, weapons systems officer. "It's the language
we use to talk about things, which is completely different now. "
NE-15 provides a unique opportunity to increase operational knowledge of
other services airframes, however, for the most part, the tactical
mission sets different airframes preform are similar across all
branches, he said. For example, a Navy fighter is capable of doing
escorts and fleet air defense but if it was assigned an attack mission
it would also be able to perform force projection, interdiction and
close and deep air support.
"The learning process for us is getting there after an event," Fritzhand
said. "The [mission] will take us an hour of being in the sky fighting,
but we will spend four hours debriefing."
Part of this process takes place as the pilots unwind from the day's events.
"We may end (the day) drawing arrows (representing the day's events)
saying 'okay when we do this the Air Force uses that kind of language,'"
An advantage to a joint exercise involving approximately 200 aircraft
from all service branches and units including U.S. Pacific Command,
Alaskan Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pacific Air Forces, Marine Corps
Forces Pacific, U.S. Army Pacific, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility
Command, Air Force Materiel Command, Air National Guard, Air Force
Reserve Command and U.S. Naval Reserve is the proximity to a knowledge
base pilots usually don't have access to.
"Next door there is a Raptor squadron. Next to them there is an F-15
squadron. We are able to just go over there and ask these guys, 'hey,
when you said that what does that mean? Would you mind coming over here
and drawing us some arrows? What does your tactics involve when we set
this kind of presentation,'" Fritzhand said.
These types of lessons are also carrying over to the maintainers who help keep the fighters flying.
"Not many people realize the amount of inspections and maintenance we do
and the number of hours we put in," said Aviation Electrician's' Mate
3rd Class Lucas McLean.
People have spent days, if not weeks' worth of time, just to get one
aircraft off the ground we don't want to put all that work to waste, he
"We have to exhaust every resource we have even if that means we have to
go to every squadron and say 'we need this part' and if it's not
available [the aircraft] is going to get bumped out,'" McLean said.
Like the pilots, a lot of the interaction and learning on how to operate
within other branches environment happens after regular duty hours.
"It's great because they live a totally different life," McLean said.
"It's like you're growing up and you have couple of brothers who all go
different routes in life and then you get together at Christmas.
Everyone wants to talk about what they do. Everyone has great stories.
You get to hear about their experiences. Everyone does things slightly
differently and you think your stuff is the coolest."