The 128th Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135 Stratotankers from General Mitchell Air National Guard Base, Wisconsin, also provided a pivotal warfighting role. Tanker aircraft provided in-air refueling to all three fighter jets. As pilots performed battle tactics, command information was channeled through an E-3 Sentry, which monitored aircraft activity within the battlespace. The airborne warning and control aircraft is operated by aircrew from the 960th and 970th Airborne Air Control Squadrons, from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
Flying squadrons rely on mass-training opportunities such as Sentry Aloha to test and improve warfighting skills with partnered units to ensure air superiority in any possible conflict. Mission planners consider every possible variable when designing exercise details to include transportation, logistics, maintenance, weather, scheduling, health requirements, fighter capabilities and more.
“Sentry Aloha provides a unique opportunity for ‘fourth-gen’ units to operate in ‘5th gen’ fighter aircraft integration with the F-22 Raptors,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Ohman, Sentry Aloha exercise director. “Fighter integration in dissimilar air combat, simply put, is when they operate together and are on the same team, they achieve better results than alone.”
While the primary goal of Sentry Aloha is to develop proficiencies of fighter pilots, the professional development of Airmen of every level is necessary for the exercise to become a complete success.
Airman 1st Class Nate Johnsen, a 128th ARW maintainer, discovered how the exercise environment provides more experience than just his drill weekends.
“I’m a traditional guardsman back home,” Johnsen said. “So being out here in a deployment situation is more interesting because you have one or two (Stratotankers) going out every day.”
With a seemingly endless body of water surrounding Hawaii, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam has been deemed an optimal training location due to its unique geography and expansive base resources.
“The location has perfect weather for flying, in excess of 300 days a year,” Weidner said. “You get great training.”