A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit flies over the Gulf of Alaska in support of Northern Edge 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps / Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit flies over the Gulf of Alaska in support of Northern Edge 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps / Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

Marines and sailors take part in largest joint exercise of 2021

Ships, aircraft, and 15,000 servicemembers all came together to hold the huge interservice exercise.

Marines and sailors met with their colleagues in the Army and Air Force stationed in Alaska to hold exercise Northern Edge 2021, beginning on May 2, to train in the northern climates.

Northern Edge is a regular exercise to promote enhanced readiness and interforce cooperation, according to a military news release

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, alongside the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, were some of the units taking part in the exercise, spread across the Gulf of Alaska and the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. Forces stationed from Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson and from other parts of the Lower 48 also took part in the exercise.

“As a forward deployed naval expeditionary force, along with our Makin Island ARG counterparts, 15th MEU is uniquely postured to validate and inform future capabilities and operating concepts,” said Marine Corps Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, 15th MEU commanding officer, in a news release. “I’m truly excited to be in my home state and for the opportunity to test our capabilities in a climate different to what we have experienced thus far during this deployment.”

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The exercise comes as more and more attention shifts to the Arctic and the near-peer competition between the U.S., China, and Russia heats up. The Navy recently released its high-level strategy for the Arctic, including being able to carry out the full range of military operations in the high latitudes.

A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit flies over the Gulf of Alaska in support of Northern Edge 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps / Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit flies over the Gulf of Alaska in support of Northern Edge 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps / Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

“We have an amazing opportunity to showcase and enhance the interoperability of this amphibious force with not only a carrier strike group, but with the Army and Air Force as well,” said Navy Capt. Henry Kim, commodore of the Makin Island ARG, in a news release. “I’m looking forward to advancing expeditionary advanced base operations, especially in the austere northern environments near the Arctic.”

Thousands of Marines and sailors aboard the carrier strike group and the amphibious ready group field-tested methods for the future deployment of MEUs, strategic-level Marine rapid deployment forces, in Alaska and similar climates, far from many of the battlefields of the last two decades.

“This crew has shown phenomenal resilience and warfighting excellence this deployment,” said Navy Capt. Eric Anduze, commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, in a news release. “Northern Edge provides us with yet another opportunity to hone our skills and to practice tactics, techniques, and procedures that will better prepare us to work jointly. Our team looks forward to this challenge, and to improving our command-and-control capabilities with our sister services.”

The exercise will include plenty of time for Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force pilots, including scenarios for defensive air combat, close air support, and aerial deterrence of maritime forces, according to the news release.

An F-15EX takes off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in support of Northern Edge 2021. (U.S. Air Force / 1st Lt. Savanah Bray)

An F-15EX takes off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in support of Northern Edge 2021. (U.S. Air Force / 1st Lt. Savanah Bray)

The exercise included integrating new hardware into the Air Force’s fighter fleet, the F-15EX, the newest iteration of the F-15C family.

“At Northern Edge we’re assessing how the F-15EX can perform in a jamming environment, to include GPS, radar and Link 16 jamming,” said Air Force Maj. Aaron Eshkenazi, F-15EX pilot, 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, in a news release. “So far, it’s been performing really well.”

Other Air Force assets came in from as far away as Guam, according to a news release.

“We have to get reps as a team,” said Lt. Col. Jarred Prier, 20th Bomb Squadron and bomber task force commander. “It’s like basketball. Sure, I can practice free throws by myself, but there’s nothing like running drills with the rest of the team. That’s what we’re doing with Northern Edge.”

The exercise is scheduled to terminate on May 14, according to a news release.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

Two F/A-18 Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), April 29, 2021. (U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erik Melgar)

Two F/A-18 Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), April 29, 2021. (U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erik Melgar)

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