VOLK FIELD, Wis. (WXOW) — Northern Lightning is an annual joint military exercises held at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center in Camp Douglas.
1,000 personnel from 20 different units will practice combat scenarios using some of the newest technology that the military has to offer. It’s the second installment of the exercise with the first happening in May. The primary goal for Northern Lightning is to get units working together and communicating with their technology, so they can be ready for combat scenarios.
F-35 combat fighter planes are some of the best in the world. These high tech planes among others are part of the focus in the exercise this year. These fifth generation combat strikers are some of the latest and greatest in the military. They are a step up from their counterpart, the F-16.
“It’s just a night and day difference, you can’t really compare the two,” said 58th Squadron Flight Commander Zachary Clements.
Clements has been flying in the Air Force since 2012, primarily with the F-16. Now, he’s inside an F-35, and it’s a whole new ball game.
“The best comparison is to look at vehicles that were made 35 years ago and think, would you want to still be driving that vehicle, or would you want to be driving a brand new vehicle,” said Clements.
One of the benefits of this fighter plane is its flight range and maneuverability during combat.
“They never see me really in a stealth airplane where they kind of always see you in an F-16, so essentially, what you get is if you can’t see me, you can’t shoot me, so I essentially get to shoot at you first,” said Clements.
That’s why pilots like Zachary are training now to communicate with other high tech planes and ground systems in a changing, modern world.
“In the days of old, the single unit of P-51s could fly and train together, but they didn’t really do a lot with the other airplanes that are out there, and they didn’t necessarily need to because they didn’t interact plane to plane or plane to ground like we do today,” said Col. Bart Van Roo, Exercise Director for Northern Lightning.
Northern Lightning runs until August 23 are involves the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard. This specific exercise has been taking place since 2003.