Military News

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Remote radio relay stations enable communications during NE15

by Capt. Tania Bryan
Northern Edge 15 Joint Information Bureau Public Affairs

6/18/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- In a state that is as wide as the lower 48 states and larger than Texas, California and Montana combined, maintaining communications during Northern Edge 15, the largest flying exercise of the year, can be challenging yet is critical to mission success.

The military air, land and sea training ranges in Alaska are collectively known as the JPARC, or Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, and includes 65,000 square miles of available airspace, nearly 2,500 square miles of land space and 42,000 square nautical miles of surface, subsurface and overlying airspace in the Gulf of Alaska.

The JPARC provides for wide and varied training unmatched anywhere else in the world.  However, the vast expanse of the training ranges requires special attention be paid to ensure radio communications are maintained throughout the exercises.

Middleton Island, an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska, houses a Federal Aviation Administration Radar and Communications site, which during Northern Edge doubles as a radio relay station for military use.

"Additional equipment is brought in to include an Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation transponder and radio transceivers so aircraft can be tracked in real-time," said Steve Curley, a contractor working for Headquarters Pacific Air Forces weapons and tactics division.  "This provides a capability for live command and control, as well as having their entire flight profiles recorded for a more accurate post mission analysis and debrief."

In order to operate and maintain the equipment during the exercise, personnel are deployed to the island.  A location routinely home to no more than local wildlife.

"During the live-flying events I monitor the equipment and update transceiver frequencies in real-time, so the range training officers and command and control do not miss key radio calls," said Master Sgt. John Sperling, 354th Communications Squadron NCO in charge of radio frequency transmissions.

"Because Northern Edge has not been held since 2011, I have had to become familiar with and be able to troubleshoot 'new to me' equipment in a relatively short amount of time," said Sperling, a Frankenmuth, Michigan, native.

While this has been a challenge, the capabilities have been maintained and help to ensure safety of the exercise.

"Just today, we had a situation where two radios would not transmit, and being the only person on the ground, Sergeant Sperling was able to complete complex troubleshooting, correcting the problem in near record time," Curley said. "Without these two radios, an entire air fight lane, greater in size than some states would be without realistic and accurate mission results."

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