Alaska’s biggest military exercise

June 14th, 2009 in Breaking News, Troop Movement • Alaska’s biggest military exercise means booming business for fighter pilots.

FAIRBANKS — Alaska’s largest military exercise of the year is set to begin today.

More than 9,000 troops from all branches of the U.S. military, stationed in nine different time zones, will participate in Northern Edge 2009. Northern Edge is scheduled to last through June 26.

“The exercises allow us to train in a joint environment and practice tactics and procedures in air and sea engagements,” said Capt. Uriah Orland, an Air Force spokesman based at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

More than 200 aircraft, including B-52s, F-16s and Black Hawk helicopters are involved in this year’s Northern Edge, which traces its origins back more than three decades to much smaller Arctic exercises.

The military hosts the exercises in Alaska because the state offers more than 120,000 square miles of air space.

Many planes participating in Northern Edge are temporarily stationed at Eielson Air Force Base, while some additional helicopters are calling Fort Wainwright home for the next two weeks.

In addition, the USS John C. Stennis and its carrier strike group will be operating out of the Gulf of Alaska during the exercises. The nuclear-powered supercarrier has an air wing of more than 70 aircraft and a crew of 5,000 sailors.

As for what those living near Eielson should expect, Orland said there will be additional noise from planes taking off and landing at various points between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. While there will be sonic booms, they are restricted to higher altitudes and less-populated areas, and should not pose a danger to the public.

“We’re extremely pleased to be allowed the practice we need to train to defend the country,” Orland said.