STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. – Sixty-five New York Air National Guard Airmen and two LC-130 "Skibirds" from the 109th Airlift Wing are participating in the multinational joint exercises Arctic Eagle and Arctic Edge in Alaska.
The exercises are designed to practice operations in extreme cold to defend Alaska and provide military support to civil authorities. The team returns to New York around March 10.
Arctic Eagle 2020 training is at multiple locations in Alaska and Canada's Yukon Territory. About 900 Air and Army National Guard members from 15 states are participating across Alaska Feb. 20 to March 7, according to the Alaska National Guard.
Arctic Edge 20 is a North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command exercise scheduled every two years.
Alaskan Command is the host headquarters for the training, which is scheduled Feb. 24 to March 6 to test the military's ability to operate in the far north.
"The Arctic is more accessible than it has ever been. We want to make sure we are playing our part in meeting the Department of Defense objectives for Arctic strategy," said Capt. Eric Chan, an LC-130 pilot.
The 109th will be showcasing its ability to build and sustain a ski landing area and an extreme cold weather camp in the far north of Alaska.
Fifteen personnel and supplies will be dropped off by Twin Otter airplanes from the Royal Canadian Air Force, where they will build a skiway – a marked area for the ski-equipped plane to land – and forward operating base to allow LC-130s to land and operate at that location.
During the two weeks on the ice, Airmen from the 109th will also teach members of the New Hampshire Air National Guard and the U.S. Navy how to build and maintain remote skiways and extreme cold weather camps.
Another part of the exercise is to provide airlift support for ground forces and work with the U.S. Marine Corps in a live-fire exercise using the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
A HIMARS is a truck-mounted missile launcher system that can put six smaller rockets or one large missile on a precise target. The system can be carried onboard a C-130.
The 109th will work with a Marine HIMARS rocket artillery company to load the weapon system onto an LC-130, fly to a specific destination, roll the system off the plane and fire it. It will then be loaded back onto the aircraft and flown to the starting point.
"We need to make sure we have the training and capability to deal with conflict or competition in the Arctic," Chan explained.
"With more and more shipping and cruise ships happening in the Arctic, we can supplement search-and-rescue capabilities if needed. We also have the ability to sustain forward operating locations, refueling points and extend the military range into the Arctic Circle."
The exercise includes teams from the Army and Air National Guard, Royal Canadian Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps.
The 109th Airlift Wing flies the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world, the LC-130 version of the Hercules C-130 transport. The planes can land on snow or ice in locations where other aircraft cannot go.
The 109th Airlift Wing supports National Science Foundation research in Antarctica and Greenland and works with the Canadian Forces and other allied nations to support operations in the Arctic.