Military exercises conducted within the United States offer our troops with the opportunity to get the hang of their training and equipment, but create limitations in terms of scope. A ground-based exercise must be conducted within the grounds of the military installation, and accompanying air operations must adhere to regulations pertaining to flying through civilian airspace. While these exercises are valuable, they limit the scope of an exercise to fairly small groups in fairly controlled circumstances.
Fortunately, a biennial Pacific Command contingency exercise conducted in the Gulf of Alaska and around central Alaskan ranges called Northern Edge doesn’t suffer from any such limitation.
Northern Edge 17, which runs from May 1st through the 12th of this year, currently sees approximately 6,000 military personnel gathered to take part in huge exercises intended to prepare joint U.S. forces to respond to any sort of crises that may develop in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region of the globe. Over two hundred aircraft are taking part this year, including the F-35B Lightning II, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16C Fighting Falcon, FA-18D Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, KC-135 Stratotanker, and the KC-10 Extender aircraft.
By conducting these exercises in Alaska, commanders are able to take advantage of 65,000 square miles of 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.