by Chief Petty Officer Larry Foos
NE15 Joint Information Bureau Public Affairs
6/26/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Calmly
soaring at 30,000 feet in the midst of nearly 100 fighters, bombers and
refueling tankers executing a battle scenario, an Air Force E-3G
Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveys every aircraft in a
300 mile radius, calling out commands, verifying target hits and sending
aircraft back home safely.
Threat detection, improvisation, air battle management - it was all part
of a typical mission for the E-3G crew of the U.S. Air Force 964th and
966th Airborne Air Control Squadron (AACS), Oklahoma City during
Exercise Northern Edge 2015 in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.
"We provide the command and control of the aircraft. It's our job to
oversee what's going on, and in real time, make changes in the air,"
said U.S. Air Force Maj. Dan Sprunger, 964th AACS mission crew
commander. "We run the tanker plan so when guys need gas, we send them
there. If guys need to fall out, we shift aircraft around. We're like
the chess master of the game."
With as many as 24 weapons officers, surveillance officers, radar and
communication technicians, and flight deck crew on a single E-3G
Northern Edge mission, the AACS gained not only valuable, high-tempo
warfare experience, but also met specific testing goals. The E-3G
aircraft carries an upgraded computer platform for their weapons and
surveillance scopes, known as the 4045. It advances their old operating
system by about 30 years. Northern Edge enabled AWACS personnel to try
the new system and they quickly learned the value of the new features.
"It provides more situational awareness," said 1st Lt. Breann Hermann,
964th AACS air weapons officer. "You can personalize it and now you can
build unlimited airspaces. It's more reliable and more technologically
After each mission, the crew provides feedback how the 4045 system
worked and offer potential areas of improvement. Overall, it's been a
"The system cuts down on (operator's) steps. The ease of use is
drastically higher, and the tracking process goes faster," Sprunger
By the end of the two-week, biannual Northern Edge exercise, the AACS'
squadrons will have completed approximately 15 command and control
missions using both old and new systems. Both AWACS aircraft effectively
brought dozens of aircraft in and out of the battle range safely and
successfully hitting their targets.
Alaska's premier joint training exercise, Northern Edge combined
approximately 200 military aircraft from all services to practice
operations, techniques and procedures while simultaneously enhancing
interoperability within the JPARC and the Navy's Temporary Maritime
Activities Area located in the Gulf of Alaska. Some 6,000 Airmen,
Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from active duty, Reserve
and National Guard units participated.