EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Aircraft from the 53rd Wing and 96th Test Wing deployed for a two-week exercise in Alaska to test F-15 and F-16 systems in a realistic threat environment.
The Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force teamed with a number of units across the 53rd WG and the 96th TW to execute F-15C, F-15E, and F-16 flight tests from April 25 to May 13.
“The OFP CTF team prides ourselves in getting our test programs to a safe and effective state and then smartly ‘throwing them in the deep end’ to see how these test programs do in an operationally relevant environment,” said Lt. Col. Michael Lynch, the OFP CTF commander. “Short of war, Northern Edge provides us with a near perfect playground to not just test our programs in a vacuum, but across an integrated, joint battlespace.”
More than 250 testers from 10 different operational test and developmental test squadrons participated in the exercise NORTHERN EDGE to test systems in the most combat-realistic environment available.
The unique airspace at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex allows testing and training against the full-spectrum of contested, degraded, and operationally limited environments.
“The Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex is unlike any airspace in the world and fosters unfettered access to realistic, combat representative, large-scale joint operations testing and training,” said Lynch. “There is a reason that joint units across the globe travel to Alaska to sharpen their combat operations training.”
According to Lynch, the resources of time, money, or test capacity make it difficult to bring a test program or test point to a “perfect” state. However, the two-week exercise provided the best possible opportunity for units to wring out their systems in flight test.
“Northern Edge allows us to focus the test resources we do have on getting it right for the warfighter so we provide combatant commanders with the capabilities they want to achieve the effects they need,” said Lynch.
For this Northern Edge iteration, the OFP CTF tested a new computer for the F-15 called the Advanced Display Core Processor II, and its associated operational flight programs. For the Vipers, the team tested the newest F-16 OFP called M7.1.
The unit also teamed with various Eglin and Nellis squadrons to test a wide variety of weapons, tactics, electronic warfare, and datalink gateway devices that Lynch hopes to deliver to the warfighter soon.
The OFP CTF manages the end-to-end developmental and operational test requirements for F-15 and F-16 software and associated hardware changes.
“We consider ourselves a key partner in the 96th Test Wing and 53rd Wing relationship,” said Lynch. “We help ensure our developmental and operational testing efforts are laser-focused on bringing effective and suitable combat capability to the warfighter faster.”
The OFP CTF concept is still 14 years young, and provides a model for OT and DT integration and synchronization.
“I think the integrated test management model we execute is an exemplar template to explore across USAF platforms and mission sets,” said Lynch. “It’s vitally important that the acquisitions savvy of Air Force Materiel Command and the operational requirements articulated by Air Combat Command are in lock-step. In the OFP CTF, we make sure these two are synced on a daily basis for the F-15 and F-16.”