Residents in Hawaii noticed an increase in fighter aircraft activity as well diversity of airframes in and around the airspaces of the state in the last couple of weeks as the Hawaii Air National Guard hosted its second large-scale "Sentry Aloha" fighter exercise of 2015.
Sentry Aloha exercises provide the Air National Guard (ANG), Air Force and Department of Defense counterparts a multi-faceted, joint venue, with supporting infrastructure and personnel that incorporates current, realistic, integrated training to equip the warfighter with the skill sets necessary to fly, fight and win.
"Sentry Aloha provides a pivot to the Pacific, combining fifth-generation, fighter integration training with large force employment to provide joint, total force integration betweenthe [Hawaii ANG], Air National Guard, [Air Force], and other DOD counterparts in a current and realistic war fighting capacity," said Lt. Col Kyle Mitsumori, acting director of Sentry Aloha.
Sentry Aloha exercises are hosted and conducted by the Hawaii ANG several times per year, for decades. It has been growing in size and complexity following the 154th Wing’s conversion in 2010 to the Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft.
"Everyone participating and supporting is professional and well-trained," said Mitsumori. "The biggest challenge is the enormity of coordination required to execute complex missions and the many moving parts involved."
For this exercise, Air Force F-15 Eagle aircraft from Oregon and Florida participated. The Arizona ANG has Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft, and an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft taking part. KC-135s will also be coming from Iowa and Maine ANG. US Naval aviators will be flying variants of the Navy F/A-18 Hornet aircraft from California out of Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, Hawaii. There are a total of 45 aircraft and more than 1,000 servicemen from seven states participating.
"Sentry Aloha is hosted by the [Hawaii] ANG but to be successful at this level the [Hawaii] ANG relies on cooperation and support from the entire Ohana: Pacific Command, Pacific Air Forces, [Federal Aviation Administration] and many other agencies to make it all work. Success is directly related to the HIANG’s ability to properly coordinate and include all players in all phases of the exercise."
The Hawaii ANG and active-duty intelligence divisions, in concert with combat planners develop realistic scenarios consistent with current and future world situations. Tactical unit weapons officers contribute to provide relevant and ‘tip-of-the-spear’ elements for maximum training.
"What’s going on is a lot of our potential enemies and near peers have invested in that same force," said Col. Duke Pirak, acting vice commander for Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing. "They learn from us, they watched us and are now starting to invest in the way that we are. So while not commonplace at all now, large air wars will be potentially an integral part of a future war, a major battle."
"[Fighter dogfighting] hasn’t happened on a scale that we see in these exercises … and that’s a good thing," said Pirak, explaining the conventional deterrent effect of the Air Force. "There are a lot of folks that just simply don’t want to tangle with us in that way."