Home Air Newly delivered Eagle II already joining its first major drill

Newly delivered Eagle II already joining its first major drill

F-15EX Eagle II
An 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron F-15EX Eagle II flies for the first time from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., April 26, 2021, prior to departure for Northern Edge 2021. Photo: US Air Force

The second of two new F-15EX Eagle II fighters delivered to the US Air Force last week is set for its major exercise debut at INDOPACOM’s premier bi-annual Northern Edge 21.

Northern Edge 21 will take place between May 3-14 at several military installations, local airports and training areas around Alaska.

Service members from the air force, army, navy and marine corps will participate in the US Indo-Pacific Command sponsored, Pacific Air Forces led, joint training exercise.

Having the Eagle II participate in the exercise will allow the air force to integrate development test and operational test procedures with the aim of delivering the fighter to frontline units as soon as possible. The exercise will also provide the service with a first look at large force integration with the aircraft.

Photo: US Air Force

Eagle II is headed to Alaska with more than 25 aircraft stationed at Eglin Air Force base from across the 53rd Wing. Though the exercise provides an elite training venue for the Combat Air Forces, for the 53rd Wing, Northern Edge will be an opportunity to test software, hardware and tactics in a unique and complex environment for fighter, bomber, RPA and reconnaissance platforms.

Some notable test efforts include F-15C software and IRST testing in a saturated environment, F-15E software, EPAWSS, and an advanced weapon demonstration.

Other test items include F-35 advanced tactics with new software, B-52 long-range hypersonic kill chain integration; MQ-9 auto-take-off and landing and high-end fight capabilities, and U-2 communication gateway testing. Fourth- and fifth-generation integration is a key objective, and the 53rd Wing expects to discover and validate new battlefield synergies from F-15EX/F-35 integration.

“In the 53rd Wing, we continuously test in our own backyard, but combat isn’t happening in our backyard,” said Lt Col Mike Benitez, 53rd Wing director of staff. “The unique range assets in place at Northern Edge provide a different, unfamiliar, complex, and operationally realistic environment for the technology and the tactics we’re testing.”

On a broader scale, Northern Edge is a joint field training exercise focused on joint task force tactical and operational level requirements. It provides US forces an opportunity to test and train on these and other concepts like agile combat employment, joint all-domain command and control, and all-domain operations center.