Northern Edge

Northern Edge
A USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon participating in Northern Edge 2011.

Northern Edge is Alaska's premier military joint training exercise.

Alaskan Command (ALCOM) uses expansive Alaskan training ranges to conduct these joint training operations.

Northern Edge 2008 was a joint training exercise running May 5–16, 2008. More than 5,000 participants from five of the United States Armed Forces (Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard) from active duty, reserve and National Guard units were involved.



Jack Frost 1975–1977 and 1979

Northern Edge evolved over the years from the Jack Frost, Brim Frost and Arctic Warrior exercises. The first of these was Jack Frost '75, an Alaskan Command-sponsored exercise, which ran from January 7 to February 14, 1975. Jack Frost '75 focused on joint operations and training in an Arctic environment. Jack Frost '76 marked the beginning of the exercises sponsored by the United States Readiness Command.

Jack Frost '77 exercised command and control techniques and procedures for joint task force operations. Later that year, US Readiness Command learned that the nickname, Jack Frost, was prohibited by JCS publications. The command received approval for the name Brim Frost, and the final Jack Frost exercise ran in 1979.

Brim Frost 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989

Brim Frost '81 was sponsored by US Readiness Command. Brim Frost 83 was conducted from January 10 to February 11, 1983. Brim Frost '85 began December 10, 1984 and concluded January 24, 1985, with more than 18,000 military troops participating. All three of these operations exercised the ability of Joint Task Force Alaska to conduct winter operations.

Brim Frost '87 involved more than 24,000 active and reserve Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy personnel. More than 143 Air Force aircraft, 130 Army aircraft, and five major Coast Guard cutters were employed during Brim Frost '87. Brim Frost '89, sponsored by Forces Command, involved more than 26,000 troops and cost $15 million. This exercise involved numerous communications initiatives such as Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, satellites, and electronic intelligence.

Brim Frost '89 was to include more than 26,000 troops, however nearly all of the units that were slated to participate dropped out of the exercise following the crash due to extreme weather of a Canadian C-130 military transport plane and the death of 9 Canadians at Ft. Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska. The only units to participate were the 4th and 5th Battalions of the U.S. Army's 9th Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division, some units of the Alaska National Guard and their necessary support units. During this exercise temperatures as low as -80 F and colder were reported along with a North American-record high atmospheric pressure of 31.85 inches.

Arctic Warrior 1991

Arctic Warrior '91 replaced the Brim Frost exercises with the reestablishment of Alaska Command in 1990. It also transferred the exercise sponsorship from Forces Command to Pacific Command. The exercise ran from January 25 to February 6, 1991. It featured live fire and had more than 10,000 troops participating.

Northern Edge 1993–2004

The first Northern Edge exercise kicked-off in 1993. This exercise was scaled in comparison. ALCOM designed it to be an internal training event for the headquarters and component headquarters staffs. The exercise emphasized the joint operations, campaign planning and logistics planning.

Northern Edge '94 field training exercise ran from March 11 to March 18, 1994. This exercise, considerably larger than 1993, involved more than 14,600 military personnel. ALCOM activated the joint task force Northern Edge in response to a simulated National Command Authority mission that provided forces to conduct peace enforcement operations. To add realism, the Red Cross, International Medical Corps, Feed the Children and other non-government agencies participated.

Northern Edge '95 and '96 each consisted of three phases, and included more than 14,000 personnel participated in the joint exercise. This exercise tested and validated ALCOM's ability to field a deployable joint task force.

Northern Edge '97, with more than 9,000 personnel, divided its field training into two parts, held in different locations. Major air and ground maneuvers were held at Fort Greely. The naval harbor defense portion was held at Seward, Alaska. Planners focused on night high-tech activities, air interdiction, deep strike missions and the land maneuver forces during conventional ground combat.

Northern Edge '98 kicked off with a mass airborne drop of 600 troops in training areas southeast of Fairbanks, while maritime forces began protecting the harbor in Ketchikan. The mock town of Simpsonville was used for joint live fire exercises, which became a pivotal part of the field training. Apache helicopters supported a brigade air assault and more than 1,200 sorties assisted air operations. The USS Ingraham (FFG 61) was the high value unit for the port security portion of the exercise and the U. S. Marine Corps Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) was the main defender.

Northern Edge '99 included a night airborne mass jump, a brigade air assault, more than 1,200 air sorties flown, theater missile defense, information operations, harbor defense, and a three-day and -night live fire at Simpsonville.

During Northern Edge 2000, there were a number of live-fire exercises, an airborne operation, and multiple close air support missions flown. A robust theater missile defense cell took part in the exercise by conducting anti-ballistic missile operations against a simulated attack. Global Hawk, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), made its first appearance in Northern Edge providing battlefield commanders with near real-time aerial imagery.

The scenario for Northern Edge 2001 facilitated unit level training, theater engagement, and joint operations in a cold climate. Additionally, the naval exercise emphasized joint and combined port security and harbor defense operations in a friendly host nation. The highlight of the naval exercise, for the second year in a row, was the use of trained dolphins to help detect underwater intruders.

Northern Edge 2002 had the benefit of training with crews from an aircraft carrier and its accompanying support ships. The USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) operated from the Gulf of Alaska, and its aircraft, including the new F-18 Super Hornet, flew into the interior of the state to hone their warfighting skills training with and against other military participants. Some of the skills practiced include air interdiction against main supply routes, precision strikes, combat search and rescue of downed aircrew and tactical airlift support. The area around Valdez served as the backdrop for the maritime activities and ground defense maneuvers, which centered on protecting the visiting USS Dubuque (LPD 8) and the Valdez Marine Terminal.

The war in Iraq forced the scope of Northern Edge 2003 exercise to contract, but it was still the state's largest annual joint training exercise. The exercise focused on homeland defense scenarios and incorporated theater missile defense, force protection, air-to-air fighter aircraft engagements, joint exercises, combat search and rescue, harbor defense and maritime operations.

Northern Edge 2004

More than 9,000 Airmen, Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen from active duty, reserve and National Guard units participated in Northern Edge 2004, which focused on air-centric tactics and procedures with an emphasis on air-to-air, air-to-ground and personnel recovery operations in remote areas of the Pacific Alaska Range Complex near Fairbanks, Alaska and over water in the Gulf.

While traditionally held in the cold weather months, for 2004, Northern Edge was moved to June to accommodate the worldwide scheduling of combat forces and availability of the carrier strike group.[1] Held from June 7 through June 16, 2004, Northern Edge training focused on air-centric tactics and procedures with an emphasis on air-to-air, air-to-ground and personnel recovery operations in remote areas of the Pacific Alaska Range Complex (PARC) near Fairbanks, Alaska, and over water in the Gulf. Though most flight operations went according to plan, naval aviators frequently operated in low visibility conditions with thick cloud ceilings over the Gulf. Along with aircraft from Carrier Group Seven, several other air units participated, including the Pacific Air Forces, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from Okinawa, Japan,[1] and several fighter units from Pacific Air Forces, robust aerial tanker support, multi-service helicopter support, and a fighter unit from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

The carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) paid a port visit to Esquimalt, British Columbia, between June 18–21, 2004, and carried out bi-lateral exercises with the Canadian Navy between June 22–29, 2004.[2] Carrier Strike Group Three also paid a port visit to Pearl Harbor between June 22–26, 2004, prior to RIMPAC 2004.[3]

Subsequent Northern Edge exercises focus on homeland defense/homeland security operations during odd-numbered years and on joint warfare operations during even-numbered years.

Alaska Shield/Northern Edge 2005

Northern Edge 2005 was combined with the State of Alaska's homeland security exercise called Alaska Shield which incorporated federal, state and local organizations in natural and human-made disaster and terrorist-related scenarios in an inter-agency environment. After more than a year's worth of planning and preparation, the U.S. Northern Command, in coordination with the State of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and other federal, state, and local government partners conducted Alaska Shield and Northern Edge 2005 from August 15–19, 2005. This exercise provided a wide range of simulated natural disasters and terrorist events in 21 communities throughout Alaska designed to train military and civilian "first responders" and test organizational and integration skills at all levels of government. This exercise was considered a capstone event for Alaska's three year Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Plan. Scenario elements and venues included an earthquake in Juneau, bio-terrorism in Ketchikan and Juneau, critical infrastructure protection at Fort Greely refinery, and terrorist attacks in various cities throughout Alaska.

Northern Edge 2006

Northern Edge 2006 was a joint training exercise from June 5–16, 2006. The exercise was aimed at helping prepare forces to respond to crises in the Asian Pacific region. Approximately 5,000 US active duty and reserve component soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines participated in the exercise by executing defensive counter-air, close-air support, air interdiction of maritime targets and personnel recovery missions. The exercise involved over 110 aircraft and two US Navy destroyers. The USS Chafee (DDG 90) based its operations out of Seward and the USS O'Kane (DDG 77) participated out of Homer.

Alaska Shield-Northern Edge 2007

Northern Edge 2007 combined with Alaska Shield, the State of Alaska's homeland security exercise, from April 30 - May 17, 2007. The purpose of the exercise was to provide local, state, federal, DoD, and non-governmental organizations and agencies the opportunity to participate in a full range of training scenarios that prepared participants to respond to a national crisis. This was the largest response readiness exercise in the history of the State of Alaska, involving more than 75 agencies and approximately 7,000 people. Military and civilian participants worked together to intercept aircraft, respond to attacks on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system and the North Pole Industrial Complex, and conducted medical evacuations after mass casualty incidents.


  1. ^ a b Journalist 2nd Class Gabriel Owens, USN (21 June 2004). "Stennis Strike Group Completes Exercise in Alaska". NNS040621-05. USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  2. ^ Captain Captain David H. Buss, USN (14 February 2005). "2004 Command Hostory, Enclosure (2): Command History for USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) for period 1 January to 31 December 2004" (PDF). USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). Washington, DC: Naval History & Heritage Command. p. 6. doi:5750 Ser 10/0120. Retrieved 2010-09-07. "Hereafter referred to as 2004 Command History" 
  3. ^ 2004 Command History, p 6.

External links

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Air Force document "Northern Edge History".

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