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Fighters, other aircraft will train over Hawaii for Air National Guard exercises

A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle from the 173rd Fighter Wing out of Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon, flies over the Pacific Ocean during the Sentry Aloha exercise at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Aug. 27, 2019.

AIRMAN 1ST CLASS ADAM SMITH/U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD

By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: January 8, 2020

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — They’re back.

A dozen or more fighter jets are expected to roar off the reef runway at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport twice a day for the latest iteration of the Hawaii Air National Guard’s “Sentry Aloha” fighter exercise.

And no, they have nothing to do with the Iranian missile attack launched Tuesday against U.S. forces in Iraq, officials said.

Approximately 35 aircraft and 1,000 personnel from eight states will be participating in the air exercise Wednesday through Jan. 22 as part of training that has been planned for months, the National Guard said.

The last of the mainland jets arrived Tuesday morning. The rumbling, afterburner takeoffs are a noise nuisance for some, thrilling for others, and now have taken on a new perspective as Hawaii and the rest of the nation wait for whatever comes next in warring exchanges with Iran.

“It (the exercise) is a good thing. It kind of boosts your confidence when you see our military up there — we do have the ability to protect ourselves,” said Ryan O’Neall, 47, a sous-chef who works at Bevy in Kakaako.

Iran is not really much of an issue for Hawaii, he believes. “I don’t really think of Iran as that much of a threat,” he said.

The Sentry Aloha exercise, like all things military in Hawaii, faces a bit of uncertainty following what the Pentagon said was Iran’s launch of more than a dozen ballistic missiles Tuesday against Iraqi military bases at Al-Assad and Irbil hosting American military personnel. President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that there were no casualties, and that Iran appeared to be standing down.

U.S. Northern Command ordered additional force protection condition measures at U.S. military installations — including those in Hawaii — following Trump’s decision to target Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a missile airstrike in Iraq on Friday.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii announced Tuesday on Facebook that it would be “conducting periodic 100% ID checks, to include all passengers, at our gates.” Additionally, 100% ID checks were planned for “high trafficked” areas such as the commissary.

F-22 Raptors with the Hawaii-based 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons will participate in exercises with F-15 Eagles from the California Air National Guard and F-16 Fighting Falcons from Alaska, along with radar aircraft from Oklahoma and KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling support from the Wisconsin Air National Guard, officials said.

Sentry Aloha exercises have been conducted by the Hawaii Air Guard two to four times per year for more than two decades.

“Sentry Aloha is an ongoing series of exercises hosted by the (Hawaii Air Guard’s) 154th Wing enabling tailored, cost effective and realistic combat training for Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force, and other Department of Defense services,” the National Guard said in a release. “It provides U.S. warfighters with the skill sets necessary to perform homeland defense and overseas combat missions.”

In late August and early September, about 800 personnel and more than 25 aircraft participated in the training, which included the Hawaii Raptors, F-16s from Oklahoma and F-15s from Oregon.

The Raptor roster has grown from 20 to 27 stealth aircraft with the addition of seven F-22s as well as dozens of pilots and maintainers from Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, which was damaged by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

Hawaii F-22s are focused on a Pacific mission and China as a strategic competitor, but in 2015-2016 about six of the aircraft deployed for six months to the Middle East and dropped GBU-32 1,000-pound bombs on ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq.

Hawaii National Guard spokesman Jeff Hickman said for the last two Sentry Aloha exercises, one noise complaint was received which may have come from Kauai.

Cecilio Pineda, 28, who lives in Kakaako, said he does hear the fighter jets taking off and sees them streaking through the sky.

“It’s for five minutes and then I just ignore it,” he said, adding, “It’s not every day that you can see those in flight.”

As for tensions with Iran, “it’s a little disturbing,” he said, “but it’s reassuring that we’re taking action to be ready.”

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