Managing Alaska’s 77,000 square mile airspace

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jose Miguel T. Tamondong
  • 354th Fighter Wing / Public Affairs

As RED FLAG-Alaska 22-1 approaches its halfway mark, the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex continues to be the center of all the action. 

The 77,000 square mile airspace is the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world. Working behind the scenes is the 354th Range Squadron responsible for equipping the JPARC with all the tools needed to train military aviators for combat. 

“The 354th RANS provides the sandbox for the 353rd Combat Training Squadron to draw their scenarios in,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Darren “Rover” Bell, 354th RANS assistant director of operations. “We are constantly working to acquire new toys for them to play with too. These could be jammers, threat replicators, targets, airspace, or new technologies for exercise management–anything we can equip the exercise developers with so that the participant’s training can be maximized.”

From the weapon danger zones for bomb droppers to the complex networks that pipe data between Eielson and threat sites hundreds of miles apart, the 354th RANS manages it all. 

“Some of these tools include surface-to-air threat simulators, realistic bombing target arrays and aircraft tracking systems that allow aircrew to accurately reconstruct missions in debrief,” said Bell.

The 354th RANS also serves as a primary conduit to the U.S. Army for all U.S. Air Force-sponsored training occurring on Army-managed training lands.

“Both of the tactical bombing ranges in the JPARC fall into that category so it’s vital that we maintain a good working relationship with the Alaskan Army units and range managers,” Bell said.

During RF-A, the 353rd CTS put up more aircraft than during any other training event throughout the year. This results in all of the Range Squadron’s systems being used and calls for a lot of detailed coordination between agencies.

Some members of the Range Squadron are dedicated to focusing solely on the exercise. Among them is Senior Airman Nathaniel Brothers, 354th RANS range radar quality assurance evaluator.

During the exercise, Brothers provides quality assurance evaluations for the two main civilian contracts that maintain and modify the JPARC threat emitters and sites. He also provides quality assurance in the White Force Control Center, which serves as a command and control hub.

“My time in the WFCC is spent cataloging deficiencies or failures that occur for each command and control system and shop within the WFCC,” Brothers said. “I then correlate this data into a large report for RANS leadership to review at the end of each exercise and during re-negotiations with the two main civilian contracts.”

From tracking, managing and authorizing the usage of aircraft munitions on a daily basis to updating virtual, real-time scheduling devices for both foreign and U.S. forces to utilize during each exercise, the 354th RANS is vital to the successful execution of RF-A.

“The impact that the Range Squadron has during RED FLAG-Alaska is immense,” Brothers said. “Without our squadron, the coordination for pilot training would be more chaotic than it already is.”