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ARCTIC EDGE 24: 27th Special Operations Wing conducts long range infiltration and helicopter air-to-air refueling

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Drew Cyburt
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The 27th Special Operations Wing supported Special Operations Forces and allied partners bringing MC-130J Commando II and U-28A Draco capabilities to exercise Arctic Edge 24, in Alaska, Feb 23-March 11, 2024.


Arctic Edge 24 (AE24) is a U.S. Northern Command joint operation field training exercise that focuses on operations in extreme cold weather and high latitude environments. It is designed to demonstrate USNORTHCOM’s ability to conduct Globally Integrated Layered Defense (GILD) in the Arctic.


The purpose of the exercise is to test existing and emerging processes and procedures in the Arctic, like infiltrating and exfiltrating in austere environments within a matter of hours, while also building and reinforcing relationships with mission partners.


“‘Any place, any time, anywhere,’ is an Air Force Special Operations Command motto,” said Captain Jake Billington, 6th Special Operations Task Unit commander. “The 27 SOW is putting that to the test in Alaska where the extreme cold provides new challenges and fantastic training to keep our force ready for worldwide projection.”


The 27 SOW operated two MC-130J Commando II aircraft from the 6th Special Operations Squadron, and two U-28A Draco aircraft from the 318th Special Operations Squadron. Several Air Commandos, skilled in both weather operations and communication support, were also assigned to the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG).


The exercise marked several firsts for the U-28A Draco. This includes the highest latitude sortie for a U-28A, the first ever U-28A mission execution in the Arctic; it was also the first time that a U-28A integrated with communications between submarine, snowmobiles, and SOF over a completely ice-covered environment, far north in Alaska, where standard transmissions can be exceptionally difficult.


While the U-28A has operated out of Alaska previously, it was during warmer months. Arctic Edge 2024 and the true Arctic environment, proving the U-28A’s expanded placement and access – and their team did so with zero mission cancelations.


“I think it's a very difficult environment to live in, to work in, and to operate militarily,” said Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Thomas Keating, 6 SOS MC-130J pilot and 27 SOW mission commander for AE24. “So as these teams succeed in this harsh environment, then it sends a very good message to say ‘we know how to operate here. And we're doing it well.’”


Notably, Keating is a Royal Air Force exchange officer currently assigned to the 6th SOS.


The MC-130Js diverse capabilities were vital to the exercise, assisting in the transportation of equipment, snow mobiles, and SOF members across the Alaskan wilderness.


“We’ve done helicopter air-to-air refueling with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) helicopters up in Fairbanks, Alaska,” said Keating. “We've done airdrops, military freefall parachuting with Naval Special Warfare operators, and we've conducted a lot of heavy lifts in order to help facilitate operations.”

The three-week exercise allowed the 27 SOW to coordinate with various Special Operations Forces throughout the Department of Defense and SOF members from the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, and Norway.


“I am extremely proud to be part of a community that continues to find and defeat new mission challenges,” said Captain Nicholas Porcelli, 318th Special Operations Task Unit commander. “At AE 24, we validated our ability to provide timely, persistent overwatch in an arduous, Arctic environment that challenged our aircrew, maintainers, and aircraft. Our mission success enabled the 640 special operations personnel who were counting on us. The stakes were high – the environment presented numerous unknowns, and our crews performed exceptionally well.”


Arctic Edge 24 is a prime example of SOF’s ability to employ a layered defense at the homeland, and demonstrates how our forces are engaged, postured and ready to defend the U.S. and Canada against any aggressors in an increasingly complex Arctic security environment.