Northern Edge 21 Achieves Operational Test Advances for US Air Force Weapons Systems
Northern Edge 21 Achieves Operational Test Advances for US Air Force Weapons Systems

Northern Edge 21 Achieves Operational Test Advances for US Air Force Weapons Systems

As exercise Northern Edge 21 concludes, the 53rd Wing is returning home having achieved major test objectives for multiple weapons systems May 3-14. In addition to F-15EX Eagle II deep end testing and B-52 Stratofortress long-range kill chain milestones for hypersonic weapons, the 53rd Wing’s F-35A Lightning IIs, MQ-9 Reapers, F-15C Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles, all progressed their software, hardware, and tactics while at Northern Edge. By platform, here is what the 53rd Wing operationally tested while at Northern Edge 21.

Northern Edge 21 Achieves Operational Test Advances for US Air Force Weapons Systems
An MQ-9 Reaper, assigned to the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, lands at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska in support of Northern Edge 2021, May 3, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

The 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, recently fielded a new Operational Flight Program, Suite 30P06 to the combat air forces’ F-35s. As the new OFP rolls out, Northern Edge allowed operational testers to evaluate how the software functioned in a realistic threat environment to both inform the tactics associated with the software and provide greater feedback to the Combat Air Forces. These Tactics Improvement Proposals, known as “TIPs,” are established at the annual weapons and tactics conference.

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Northern Edge 21 Achieves Operational Test Advances for US Air Force Weapons Systems
An F-35 Lightning II from the 53rd Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., taxis on a runway at exercise Northern Edge 21.(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Savanah Bray)

While at Northern Edge, the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron operated the MQ-9 Reaper out of Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and focused on test of new pods, including the hardened targeting pod and Reaper Defense Electronic Support System, and WEPTAC TIPs. The RDESS pod provides the MQ-9 the ability to find and detect threats in the Northern Edge environment. Because of the newness of the RDESS program, much of the RDESS testing at Northern Edge informed test data points for both developmental and operational testers.

Northern Edge 21 Achieves Operational Test Advances for US Air Force Weapons Systems
F-15C Eagle pilot with the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., prepares to fly an operational test sortie at exercise Northern Edge 21 while carrying an Infrared Search and Track pod, known as the Legion Pod. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Savanah Bray)

During Northern Edge 21, F-15C pilots completed operational flight testing on the Legion Pod, an Infrared Search and Track, or IRST, pod, in the rigorous environment of Alaska ranges. Northern Edge was a “graduation” test event for the pod, prior to fielding.That “latest operational flight program” is Suite 9.1RR (Re-Release). Suite 9.1 RR is the next installment of the F-15 Operational Flight Program and what the 53rd Wing’s and 96th Test Wing’s F-15Cs and F-15Es at Northern Edge have. While at Northern Edge, the first-ever four-ship of F-15Es equipped with EPAWSS flew May 14, employing EPAWSS as it would be used in a tactical formation.

Northern Edge 21 Achieves Operational Test Advances for US Air Force Weapons Systems
F-15 Eagles and Strike Eagles from the 53rd Wing and 96th Test Wing sit on the ramp at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska during exercise Northern Edge 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Savanah Bray)
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