Annual Northern Lightning exercise returns to Volk Field Aug. 10-21
By Captain Joe Trovato
CAMP DOUGLAS — Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center is hosting approximately 50 aircraft and nearly 1,000 personnel from the National Guard, Air Force, Army, and Navy as part of the annual Northern Lightning Counterland training exercise, which runs Aug. 10-21.
Units from California, Idaho, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin will all participate in the exercise.
Northern Lightning began in the early 2000s before expanding into a large-scale exercise in 2015. It became a biannual exercise in 2018 and 2019, and returned to an annual exercise in 2020.
Northern Lightning is a tactical level, joint training exercise replicating today’s air battle space with current and future weapons platforms. A variety of the world’s most advanced aircraft including fifth generation aircraft like the F-35 will participate in the exercise.
Volk Field CRTC is one of the premier training installations and airspaces in the country, thanks to its expansive airspace and the quality of the training the installation can simulate.
Northern Lightning is one of seven Air National Guard joint accredited exercises held at a Combat Readiness Training Center, and the installation’s reputation as one of the country’s finest training areas continues to grow.
Likewise, Northern Lightning has grown into a world-class exercise.
“We are excited to continue conducting our annual Northern Lightning exercise at Volk Field,” said Colonel Bart Van Roo, the exercise director. “This exercise will focus on offensive counter-air with simulated surface-to-air attacks, and the integration of multiple air platforms. Training in this manner is essential for readiness and enhancing partnerships.”
Van Roo said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitated some changes to the annual exercise’s structure, but the training will be invaluable.
“We’ve had to make some adjustments due to COVID,” he said. “Though we still have more than 50 aircraft and approximately 1000 personnel participating, far fewer will be staging out of Volk Field in order to mitigate public health risks. Even amid a pandemic the Air National Guard and our active-duty partners stand ready to complete whatever mission our country asks of us.”
Pilots and air crews participating in Northern Lightning can expect to operate in a contested environment with adversary aircraft, electronic jamming and simulated surface-to-air threats, and such training is critical to building readiness for the threats and missions the nation faces.
The general public can expect to see an increase in aircraft activity in and around the Camp Douglas area and in the skies over Central Wisconsin, Aug. 10-21.
“This exercise will include potential supersonic travel, within FAA and military guidelines, so people in the military operating area, a 55 by 200 mile space, may hear sonic booms between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during weekdays,” Van Roo said. “We appreciate everyone’s patience as it is a necessary part of preparation for actual combat.”
Those living in the following counties can anticipate increased military flight operations in the airspace: Adams, Brown, Calumet, Clark, Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Jackson, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, Outagamie, Portage, Sauk, Sheboygan, Trempealeau, Waupaca, Winnebago, and Wood.