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Northern Lightning exercise concludes at Volk Field

  • Published
  • By Maj. Matthew Wunderlin
  • Wisconsin National Guard

CAMP DOUGLAS, Wis. – The skies over central Wisconsin will be a little emptier as exercise Northern Lightning hosted by Volk Field wrapped up Aug. 21.

The two-week joint-training exercise involved nearly 25 units from all across the country – including Guam – and included Air Force, Army, Navy and Air National Guard assets.

“Thanks to the extra medical team on hand this year providing medical briefings, daily COVID-19 symptom pre-screenings, encouraging mask wear and practicing COIVD mitigation practices, we have been successful at minimizing the risk to our services members,” said Col. Brad Meyers, the medical adviser for Northern Lightning 2020.

Due to the pandemic, fewer aircraft and personnel were staged out of Volk Field. However, the realistic combat scenarios that Northern Lightning is known for were still conducted with a force size similar to past years, with many aircraft flying directly to the military operating area from their home station.

“This exercise plays a critical role for the readiness of our forces,” said Col. Bart Van Roo, the exercise director. “Our country needs us to be always ready to combat whatever threat comes our way even while we deal with the threat of sickness. We cannot make ourselves more vulnerable by neglecting training events that are essential to readiness.”

During the exercise, aircrews flew 658 sorties and off-loaded more than 870,000 gallons of jet fuel. Thousands of ground tasks were executed simultaneously. Throughout the exercise, simulated threats targeted aircraft from four locations to replicate the fight aircraft would face with a near-peer adversary.

“Conducting regular exercises with other components helps build relationships and improves interoperability,” said Van Roo. “We don’t want our first time working together to be when lives are at stake.”

Airframes participating in the exercise included: L-159, T-38, F-35A, F-16B30, UH-60, F-16B50, F/A-18, F-22, KC-10 and KC-135.

Northern Lightning is an annual joint total force exercise hosted by the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, providing tailored, cost-effective, tactical level and high-end combat training. The exercise is focused on fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft integration in complex threat environments.

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.

Volk Field CRTC is one of the premier training installations in the country due to its expansive airspace and the quality training the installation can simulate.

Northern Lightning is one of seven Air National Guard joint accredited exercises held at a Combat Readiness Training Center.