Providing airspace for pilots to train

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joao Marcus Costa
  • 354th Fighter Wing / Public Affairs

When it comes to training pilots in combat it's easy to assume that flying an aircraft can simply be conducted in any airspace. But pilots need a training ground as well and Alaska provides one of the biggest in the world.

The Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) is the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. The Air Force side of JPARC is called R22-11, Blare Lakes, and is ran by the 354th Range Squadron (RANS), the other side is owned by the U.S. Army.

RANS is made up of seven sections: scheduling, maintenance, airspace management, engineering, plans/programs, support and threat systems. Each section is organized to set up the range to the best of its ability so that pilots can use the range and give their full focus on their training.

Set-ups that the range provides include movable devices that shoot threat emitters, props for pilots to practice dropping ammunition on and having the 18th Aggressors Squadron’s F-16 Fighting Falcons play simulated combatives which all teach pilots how to deal with the threats in a training environment.

All of which are amplified by its best asset, 77,000 square miles of available airspace allowing pilots to use actual maneuvers they would use in real combat.

“It’s a massive range, with 48 million acres, and a lot of it is continuous,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Kyle Allen, 354th RANS assistant director of operations. “You can fly free with high fidelity threats. Pacific Air Forces has an interest in making it a premiere location with more realistic fights.”

These exercises started because pilots who train in combatant exercise increases their chance of survival in actual combat against adversaries.

“The biggest thing here is integrating with the other units that we couldn't cover at Distant Frontier, it's a significant change here,” said Capt. Sebastian Coburn, 44th Fighter Squadron F-15c fighter pilot. “It’s good to escort a strike package while they react to ground base emitters, it adds more realism than we would get over at Kadena Air Base.”