SCOTIA, N.Y. – Thirty members of the New York Air National Guard from the 109th Airlift Wing flew two LC-130H “Skibirds” to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas to participate in a nationwide exercise that tested the United States’ digital Advanced Battle Management System. The week-long exercise involved 24 states at more than 30 Defense Department installations and command and control centers.
While the Mojave Desert might seem like an unlikely place for a ski-equipped LC-130H to visit, the scenario was simulated to take place in the Arctic – a place 109th Airmen are very familiar with due to the full-time missions that bring them to the polar ends of Earth.
“What we bring to the table, especially in a simulated Arctic scenario, is our LC-130Hs coming in with our experience in the polar regions and our capabilities. ... [We are] able to bring a team to an airfield to secure or prep it for other assets to come into that airfield,” said Capt. Eric Chan, LC-130 aircraft commander.
As increasing global temperatures change the physical environment of the Arctic, Chan explained, interests in the geographical advantages are also peaking on a global scale.
According to the Air Force’s Arctic Strategy of 2020, the Arctic is estimated to harbor over 90 billion barrels of oil reserves, 30% of the world’s untapped natural gas and $1 trillion worth of rare earth minerals. Melting ice has opened new doors to travel routes and natural resources, making the Arctic a new “hotspot” for opportunities.
Because of this change in global potential, the United States is looking to skilled Airmen like those from the 109th who are able to work in austere environments.
The New York Air National Guard operates LC-130s, the DOD’s only ski-equipped transport and contingency aircraft. Both the Guard and Reserve play a critical role in supporting space missions at Clear, Alaska, and Thule, Greenland, as stated in the Department of the Air Force’s Arctic Strategy.
Staying up to date in arctic operations, like participating in the ABMS exercise, is crucial to future operations and mission success.
As an experimental command and control network, the Advanced Battle Management System enables multiple branches of service to function cohesively in a joint operation.
“It’s demonstrating a capability that’s supposed to be what we call joint all domain command and control. Joint meaning all services, all domain – meaning air, ground, sea, space. … It's fusing all these sensor inputs into a big picture that allows the decision-makers to get ahead of threats and ahead of where we want to drive the battle, so we can get faster at the decision cycle and better anticipate the enemy. It’s building a picture for the folks at the top of the strategic and operational levels to be able to see the big picture as we, in this case, defend the United States from a simulated attack,” Chan explained.
In this active scenario Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, participants were given the task to respond as if there were an attack from an adversary in the Arctic region.
For the demonstration, the 109th supplied two LC-130H Skibirds with 30 New York Air National Guard members, along with four air intercept missiles and two missile loaders that were used to rearm F-16 Falcon fighter jets at Nellis AFB.
“This is my first time loading this kind of cargo,” explained loadmaster Senior Airman Katy Mausert. “It’s definitely different for our base.”
Also transported on the LC-130Hs were members of the Air Force 321st Contingency Response Squadron from 621st Contingency Response Group, out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Once dismounted, the armed contingency response group patrolled the flight line with two Ghost Robotics Vision 60 prototypes, more commonly referred to as robotic dogs. The joint efforts of the 109th and the 321st allowed for successful rearming, refueling, and protection of the fighter jets, ensuring mission continuation.
The combined exercise was an opportunity for all branches of the military, including the newly formed U.S. Space Force, to practice joint capabilities, technologies and operations.