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NEWS | June 17, 2024

Hawaii Air National Guard Hosts Sentry Aloha Joint Exercise

By Tech. Sgt. John Linzmeier, 154th Wing, Hawaii Air National Guard

The Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing concluded the latest iteration of its ongoing fighter exercise, Sentry Aloha 24-2, June 12 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

This two-week National Guard Bureau training event brought together more than 1,000 participants from nine states and four service branches, providing essential combat training to joint and total-forces units.

Aircraft operated across the islands of Oahu, including Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole.

Visiting fighter and attack aircraft included A-10 Warthogs and F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Test Center, F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing and F-35A Lighting IIs from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron. These aircraft joined the 154th Wing’s locally based F-22 Raptors, operated by the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons.

This year’s iteration was built around a concept known as distributed mission planning and operations, enabling participants to operate with more autonomy as warfighters accomplished combat objectives.

Maj. Michael ‘Deuce’ Oliver, Sentry Aloha exercise director, said this strategic shift challenged them to employ decentralized and flexible practices in dynamic combat environments while facing the threat of advanced enemy aircraft.

Daily training sorties focused on air-to-air combat, featuring large-scale combat simulations against adversarial red air forces and integration with friendly blue air forces.

Several scenarios included blue air fighters protecting A-10 aircraft conducting air-to-ground strikes. These operations took place on the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii Island, with Airmen from the 25th Air Support Operations Squadron on the ground coordinating close air support strikes with the escorted Warthogs.

In addition to the air-to-ground strikes, maritime strike missions were conducted alongside the U.S. Navy. Both scenarios incorporated the support of a U.S. Marine Corps MQ-9A from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3. The UAV’s advanced airborne sensors and communication node provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information to red and blue air participants throughout the training.

The Hawaii ANG’s 169th Air Defense Squadron monitored and relayed battlespace information for each training objective. They upheld command and control to ensure real-time situational awareness and coordinated responses to evolving threats.

“Exercises like this are exactly what we need to allow us to operate at a much larger scale and as a joint force,” said Tech. Sgt. Kukila Carreira-Manin, 169th ADS weapons director. “This also gave us an opportunity to integrate with more expeditionary Air National Guard members from [continental United States], such as the 128th, 116th and 109th Air Control Squadrons, as well as 3d LAAB Marines stationed at Kaneohe Bay and MACS-4 out of Okinawa, Japan.

“We’re not going to win the fight as a single branch, “said Carreira-Manin. “We as military members on all levels must continue to work together as one to ensure we are relevant and ready in the race for Great Power Competition.”|

Fighter activity was maintained through air-to-air refueling by local and visiting tanker aircraft, including KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-46A Pegasus airframes. C-130 aircraft variants from the Air Force Reserve Test Center and the 129th Rescue Wing delivered logistical supplies for operations in remote locations.

Throughout the exercise, AATC tested a developing communication system with airframes like the KC-135, known as Link 16. This system facilitates seamless data exchange between aircraft and other sensors, enhancing situational awareness and coordination. The integration of Link 16 on atypical aircraft like tankers during the exercise demonstrated the potential to revolutionize communication strategies in combat scenarios.

Despite a smaller footprint of “Hawaiian Raptors” due to off-island deployments, the exercise minimized the impact on general aviation at Honolulu International Airport by dispersing aircraft across multiple locations. This added complexity to the operations, showcasing the capabilities of conducting distributed planning and ensuring secure communications provided by members of the Hawaii ANG’s 291st and 292nd Combat Communications Squadrons and National Guard augmentees from around the nation.

Key achievements included numerous mission commander upgrades and mission qualification training for the participating fighter squadrons.

Sentry Aloha will increase the 154th Wing’s readiness to support security initiatives throughout the Indo-Pacific Theater and beyond.

​“We’ve gotten quite a lot done over the past two weeks and are glad to see that many are walking away with some significant milestones checked off,” said Oliver. “Our hope is that the immense value gained from these experiences will inspire everyone to return for more opportunities to fly with us, the Hawaiian Raptors, again for more world-class training.”

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