Hawai'i State News

Aircraft come to Big Island as part of Hawai‘i Air National Guard fighter training exercise

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The Hawai‘i Air National Guard’s 154th Wing came to Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole on June 12 as part of its fighter exercise, Sentry Aloha 24-2, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on O‘ahu.

F-22 Raptors, operated by the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons, taxi during exercise Sentry Aloha 24-2 June 12, 2024, at Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii. This iteration of the exercise involves approximately 1,060 participants and more than 40 aircraft from nine states, which operated out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and Onizuka Kona International Airport, Keāhole. The Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing has hosted the exercise for more than 20 years to provide tailored, cost-effective and realistic combat training for total-force Airmen and other Department of Defense services. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Linzmeier)

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

“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. 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.”

Aircraft operations were staged and held across geographically separated locations on the islands of O‘ahu including Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole on the Big Island.


Visiting fighter and attack aircraft included A-10 Warthogs and F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC), F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing, 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 heightened levels of autonomy as warfighters accomplished a series of 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 forces, ‘red air,’ and integration with friendly, ‘blue air,’ forces.

Several scenarios included blue air fighters protecting A-10 aircraft conducting air-to-ground strikes, which took place at Pōhakuloa Training Area, 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, having both scenarios incorporating 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 both red and blue air participants throughout the training.

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

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 necessary for operations in remote locations, ensuring continued support and operational capability.

Throughout the exercise, AATC tested a developing communication system with airframes like the KC-135, known as Link 16, which facilitates seamless data exchange between aircraft and other sensors. This real-time information-sharing capability significantly enhances 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, ensuring more efficient and effective mission execution.


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 dispersion 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 remains a critical element of combat training, offering invaluable opportunities for total-force Airmen and other DoD services. As the exercise concludes, the lessons learned and skills honed will significantly bolster the readiness of the 154th Wing to support several security initiatives throughout the Indo-Pacific Theater and beyond, ensuring comprehensive preparedness for all involved.

“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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