Red Tails participate in their first exercise with the F-35s.

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Michael Luangkhot
  • 187th Figher Wing

DANNELLY FIELD, Ala. -- The 187th Fighter Wing participated in Sentry Savannah 2024, a 12-day large force exercise at the Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Ga., May 4-16, 2024.

Sentry Savannah is the Air National Guard’s premier large force exercise dedicated to enhancing air combat capabilities for modern fighter jets. The exercise is held annually at the Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Ga. and it brings together fighter units from across the Nation to train in a realistic simulated environment. 

“This is our first F-35 movement and our first exercise in nearly two years. So, our Airmen are facing many unfamiliar obstacles and challenges, and are doing a great job of dealing with that adversity.  While we aren’t where we want to be yet, it’s obvious that we will get there in time.”  said Col. Casey Hall, 187th Fighter Wing, Operations Group commander “With more repetition, our pilots and Airmen will continually learn and improve so they’re prepared for any situation in any environment.”

During the two-week exercise, Airmen from the 187th Fighter Wing, practiced their ability to generate aircraft to fight in simulated battlespace in the eastern seaboard that spanned over 50,000 square miles.

“Being here gives us a little taste of what deploying with the F-35s would look like. Being able to maintain the aircraft away from home station is always a challenge when all the tools are not readily available,” said MSgt Justin Kesler, 187th Maintenance group, Low Observable section leader “This type of exercise allows us to find flaws in processes and procedures and innovate new methods to become more efficient.

The intensive training encompasses various aspects of air combat including ground team coordination, offensive and defensive counter-air maneuvers, and intercepting simulated cruise missiles. Additionally, the exercise provides a comprehensive training environment that simulates the full spectrum of modern warfare, ensuring warfighters are prepared for any contingency. 

“Although much of our training is aircraft specific, Sentry Savannah offers a unique ability to integrate with other platforms (F-22, F-16, F-15, KC-135, KC-46) in large force exercises over extended pieces of airspace" said Capt. David Alman, 100th Fighter Squadron, pilot "This really showcases the capabilities of the F-35, provides more realistic training, and gives pilots great learning experiences we wouldn’t normally get in daily training.”

The mission for the unit at Sentry Savannah was to enhance readiness, lethality and continue to hone their combat skills in the newly acquired fifth-generation aircraft. The exercise saw the participation of over six units and more than 40 aircraft, showcasing the extensive training capacity and commitment to maintaining peak combat readiness within the Air National Guard.