302d Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor unit led Northern Edge 23-1

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Kaitlyn Lawton
  • 477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

This year the role of lead F-22 Raptor unit for the Northern Edge 23-1 went to the 302d Fighter Squadron, the Air Force Reserve F-22 squadron, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

The 302d Fighter Squadron is part of the 477th Fighter Group and has a long history of air dominance to include the well-known Tuskegee Airmen or Red Tails.

“As lead raptor unit for NE 23-1, our role is to help develop the scenario to ensure it is realistic and relevant,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Enlow, 302d FS F-22 Raptor pilot and director of operations. “There are training and test events daily in the Gulf of Alaska and Alaska airspace.”

Northern Edge 23-1 includes U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia militaries. As a biennial exercise, NE brings thousands of U.S. service members, over 150 aircraft and five ships in and around Alaska.

“It is a joint and multinational exercise and the largest DoD exercise,” said Enlow. “It also accomplishes advanced test objectives for new DoD programs while executing training against a peer/pacing adversary.”

Exercises such as NE provide opportunities for realistic combat training which ultimately enhances combat readiness for U.S. and coalition partners.

“Together with other Weapons Officers, we ensure that the Joint Force receives the most realistic live-fly training in the world to prepare to respond to any threat,” said Maj. Christopher Boyer, 302d FS F-22 Raptor pilot and chief of weapons and tactics.

The F-22 is the world’s premier 5th Generation air-to-air platform. A combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons provides first-kill opportunity against threats. The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot's situational awareness.

“When using the F-22 in training and test events in Northern Edge, it allows us to validate Joint techniques, tactics, and procedures in the air domain,” said Boyer. “Alaska offers the only over-land airspace in the world that is expansive enough, yet the least restrictive, in order to accommodate the DoD’s largest exercise.”

Maj. Cody Vandegriff, 302nd FS F-22 instructor pilot, is the F-22 Raptor NE 23-1 administration project officer. He ensures relevant data from the overall NE are digested, disseminated, and implemented by the tactical bodies piloting the F-22 Raptor to ensure safe, effective, and lethal training.

“Anytime you cram upwards of 100 aircraft into the same piece of sky 600 miles from where they took off, there is a lot of planning involved,” said Vandegriff. “To make the training tactically valid, effective, and realistic, even more planning is required to accomplish the above safely.”

NE 23-1 allows participants to further enhance their capability and proficiency to respond to shared challenges as part of a joint effort. U.S. alliances and partnerships are critical for defense and a central pillar of all nations’ national security, based on shared values and a common commitment to peace and security. NE 23-1 is a concrete example of those strong alliances.