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RAF Lightning Squadron Hones Skills On Alaska Exercise

A Royal Air Force squadron has concluded its participation in the largest US training exercise of the year.

Exercise Northern Edge 23 saw 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, deploy over 4000 miles to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska to train with US and Australian counterparts.

This is the first time overseas Air Arms have been invited to participate in the biennial exercise which takes advantage of the huge swathes of sparsely populated and unfettered airspace across the 49th State.

Involving over 200 aircraft and 10,000 personnel, an exercise of this complexity and scale, and the advanced training opportunities it provides, is not available in Europe. The largest gathering of fifth-generation stealth fighters on an exercise to date, Northern Edge enabled the RAF to practice and develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures essential to keep 617 Squadron at the leading edge.

Our participation in Exercise Northern Edge is a symbol of the United Kingdom’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region as well as demonstrating the very close relationship the Royal Air Force shares with the US Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force. It is also serves as an illustration of how we can operate the fifth generation F-35 Lightning in a complex multi-domain environment seamlessly with our closest allies, improving interoperability and advancing our ability to conduct high-end war fighting.

Air Vice-Marshal Phil Robinson,
Air Officer Commanding No.11 Group and UK Global Air Component Commander

For 617 Squadron, the exercise also enabled personnel to hone their skills to operate a long way from their base at RAF Marham and without the support of a Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier.

It has been a real privilege to participate in Northern Edge. The opportunity to employ the Lightning’s full suite of capabilities and immerse pilots in highly realistic, and often extremely challenging, scenarios has proven invaluable.

We have sharpened our skills, improved command and control, and developed cooperative plans with our Allies. Similarly, deploying and operating Lightning at range has been a good test of our engineering and support personnel who have met the challenge admirably. 617 leaves Alaska fighting fit.

Wing Commander Stew Campbell,
Officer Commanding 617 Squadron

Also deployed for the exercise was a Voyager aircraft from RAF Brize Norton which operated from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson near Anchorage, flying daily sorties to refuel RAF and US aircraft. Voyager also supported the deployment and recovery of the 617 Squadron fighters and personnel, alongside C-17 Globemaster and Atlas (A400M) transport aircraft who delivered support equipment as colleagues evacuated entitled personnel from Sudan.

Other RAF aviators on the exercise deployed to Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson near Anchorage. These included members of 51 Squadron from RAF Waddington, and personnel embedded with 2 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force who deployed an E-7A Wedgetail to provide long-range air surveillance and control for the exercise.