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A U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler conducts air-to-air-refueling during exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 12, 2017. Northern Edge 17 is Alaska’s premier joint-training exercise and is conducted to strengthen the interoperability between various aircraft from all services. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Farbo)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Farbo

Northern Edge 17

17 May 2017 | Lance Cpl. Jacob Farbo 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, VMFA-232 and Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152 support exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 1 – 12, 2017.

Northern Edge is a large, joint-force exercise hosted by Alaskan Command focusing on the integration and interoperability of U.S. forces.

By conducting training such as anti-air warfare, offensive air support, control of aircraft and missiles, and aerial reconnaissance, this exercise provides the opportunity to test future applications of combat operations and weapon capabilities.

“These exercises don’t happen very often,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Adam Wellington, an aviation safety officer with VMFA-121. “It allows us to showcase the F-35B Lightning II and show what it can do to participate with other aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy.”

This is the first large-scale exercise in the U.S. Pacific Command where the F-35B Lightning II, F-22 Raptor, F/A-18 Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15 Strike Eagle and additional aircraft work together to conduct various mission-critical training iterations and help pilots become more proficient in tactical combat operations.

While pilots train in key aerial-exercise components, Marine maintainers from VMFA-121 work closely with the 90th Fighter Squadron, allowing them to see the major differences between the F-35B and F-22 aircraft.

“Some of the benefits we get while here at JBER are that we get to work with our fifth-generation counterparts, the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor maintainers” said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Anthony Klamecki, the quality assurance staff non-commissioned officer in charge  with VMFA-121. “The main focus we’re trying to show is the capability of this aircraft with other services. One of the obstacles we have faced is the distance between maintenance control and the location of the aircraft. It has taught us how to keep communication between the maintenance controllers and the maintainers on the line so we can try to streamline the launching process of the aircraft.”

Designed for the U.S. Marine Corps to integrate with the U.S. Air Force, Northern Edge allows Marines to identify their shortcomings in order to avoid them in the future.

“I really hope after the exercise the Marines get the integration of the fifth-generation F-35B and the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor to help the understanding of maintenance between the Marine Corps and Air Force in case we have to go forward and use actions,” said Sgt. Maj. Jason Kappen, the sergeant major of VMFA-121. “We will be able to easily integrate.”

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