This week, Air National Guard A-10C jets from two squadrons will converge at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center to practice employing air-to-surface weapons over Lake Huron. Fighters will fly missions June 14-17, 2016, departing from their home stations, recovering at Alpena, taking on fuel and ordnance, and launching at the Lake Huron Overwater Range, Restricted Area-4207, approximately 20 miles offshore from Alpena, extending to the border with Canada. Pilots will practice combat tactics with Intelligence- Surveillance-Reconnaissance aircraft, identifying pseudo “hostile” boats for targeting.
The Pike Live-Fire Exercise is designed to prepare ANG aircrews for overseas scenarios during contingency operations. This will be the fourth edition of the exercise since 2013. Officials at the CRTC manage the range which traces its origins back to the Korean War era when F-51 Mustangs, F-84 Thunderjets and F-86 Sabres flew range sorties from Detroit-Wayne Major Airport (Detroit Metro) and Kellogg Air National Guard Base in Battle Creek. A decade later B-52H Stratofortress from Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Oscoda and K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Marquette carried the range’s combat training tradition forward another 30 years.
Today, the Overwater Range remains an excellent venue for air combat training in the Great Lakes and Midwest. The remoteness from shore and shared border with Canada make for infrequent visits from civilian vessels, an important quality when gauging suitability for a training range. In addition to the military activity, commercial freighters move cargo on two shipping lanes through a portion of the range. The Coast Guard plays a critical role in scheduling and separating commercial ships and military aircraft training, working closely with CRTC officials to maintain safe navigation, commercial access, and defense readiness. Boaters can find out about planned military activity on the range via the U.S. Coast Guard’s “Local Notice to Mariners” bulletins. Additional alerts regarding coastal maritime safety will broadcast from the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center on VHF simplex radio channels 16 and 22A. Messages will transmit before and during training operations. Ships will be rerouted and tracked outside Restricted Area-4207 by both Coast Guard and Air Force officials before commencing military operations.
Planners expect to log 18 sorties during the course of the exercise which will run during daylight hours only, Tuesday through Friday.