The US Air Force has successfully lead the Sentry Aloha exercise with the US Navy, demonstrating the integration and niche capabilities of fourth and fifth-generation combat aircraft like the F-22 Raptor, F-15 Eagles and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets.
The Hawaii Air National Guard exercise is held several times a year to provide aircraft with dissimilar combat training among participating flying and support units. The fighter aircraft consisted of the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons’ Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPH-H) based F-22 Raptors, Oregon Air National Guard F-15 Eagles and Navy F-18 Hornets from China Lake, California.
The integration of Hawaii’s fifth-generation Raptors and visiting fourth-generation fighters enabled aviators to enhance their aerial tactics and prepare for a multitude of war-fighting scenarios.
The Department of Defense relies on joint efforts, such as exercise Sentry Aloha, to maintain air dominance and preserve peace and stability throughout the Pacific region.
The back-to-back combat training included in-air refueling by KC-135 Stratotankers from Iowa and Wisconsin Air National Guard air refueling units, a component that enables US and partnered aircraft to operate virtually anywhere on the planet.
Sentry Aloha exercise director, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Ohman said the refueling capabilities maximised the fast-paced training.
"Exercises like this gives us a chance to just be part of the bigger picture and it builds confidence. Especially for our younger pilots and boom operators. It gives them exposure to other types of receiving aircraft and to see how quickly it all happens, opposed to the routines we’re used to at our home station. This helps us know what to expect when it’s actually time to deploy," Lt Col Ohman explained.
While JBPH-H maintains fifth-generation fighters, it still upholds a permanent supply of aircraft-ground equipment to cater for visiting fourth-generation aircraft.
Senior Master Sergeant Noel Demello, Sentry Aloha maintenance planner, said the readily-available equipment significantly lowers expenses because it reduces the need to airlift personnel and large-volumes of supplies used to generate aircraft sorties.
"The focus of Sentry Aloha is to develop unit-specific, tailored scenarios that ensure the majority of tactical learning takes place in the airspace, not in the trenches of mission planning. This is unique from Flag exercises, which have inflexible scenarios given to units when they attend," Lt Col Ohman said.
The 199th Fighter Squadron is part of the 154th Wing, the largest wing in the Air National Guard. The Hawaii Air National Guard is comprised of nearly 2,500 Airmen whose federal mission is to be trained and available for active duty Air Force operational missions.