by U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Larry Foos
NE15 Joint Information Bureau Public Affairs
6/24/2015 - JOINT PACIFIC ALASKA RANGE COMPLEX, Alaska -- High
above the Gulf of Alaska and Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, dozens
of fighter jets engage in lengthy and complex joint combat missions for
Northern Edge 2015.
At one precise moment, two U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets break
engagement toward the welcoming sight of a KC-130J Hercules operated by
Marine Air Fueling Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152 Iwakuni, Japan. In a
simultaneous motion, the Hercules reel out hoses to both Super Hornets
for air-to-air refueling, delivering 10,000-plus pounds of aviation fuel
to extend the fighter jets' tactical operation.
The operation is one of more than 20 sorties VMGR-152 is expected to
complete for Northern Edge, providing as much as 1.5 million pounds of
aviation fuel delivered by its two KC-130Js participating in the
two-week, biannual exercise.
"We're flying air refueling tactical missions at Northern Edge," said
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Todd Kirkman, Hercules pilot for VMGR-152. "The
[battlefield commanders] are doing a good job of simulating an
operational environment out here. You can be thinking you're heading in
one track and all of a sudden they say, 'Hey there's jets up North that
need gas. You're going up there now.'"
Northern Edge afforded the Marine squadron to do something rarely done
before - conduct aerial delivered ground refueling to a U.S. Navy P-3
Orion of Patrol Squadron (VP) 46 on King Salmon, a remote island in the
Gulf of Alaska. The KC-130Js commonly deliver fuel on the ground for
Marine helicopters and tactical ground vehicles as an expeditionary
maneuver, but not for Navy aircraft.
"It's a new mission for the Navy. The P-3 crew were definitely excited
about doing it," said Kirkman. "We were able to re-arm the P-3 with fuel
and sonar buoys to enhance its range capability."
The KC-130Js completed air-to-air refueling for three F/A-18 squadrons
participating in Northern Edge 2015, including Strike Fighter Squadrons
(VFA) 147 and 154 of Lemoore, California and Air Test and Evaluation
Squadron (VX) 9 of China Lake, California. The joint exercise proved a
valuable training experience for the VMGR-152 Marines as well.
"We're a support unit. Here they're running aerial battles. It's not
something we get to experience very often within our small unit
training. You have to keep your head on a swivel and your mind running
for what's coming next," said Kirkman.
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.