Northern Lighting Exercise, 2020


According to an article by Captain Joe Travato published on August 9, 2020 in the Wisconsin Rapids City Times:

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 Volk Field website added this information about the exercise:

VISION: Deliver a premier Air National Guard joint training environment replicating today’s battle space with current and future weapons platforms.

OBJECTIVE: Provide a tactical level, joint training exercise emphasizing user defined objectives resulting in tailored, scenario based, full-spectrum, high-end training.

FOCUS: Opposed Air Interdiction and Close Air Support against a highly integrated air defense system composed of relevant surface-to-air and air-to-air threats in a contested/degraded operational (CDO) environment.

MISSIONS: Offensive/Defensive Counter Air (OCA/DCA), Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD/DEAD), and Close Air Support (CAS)

Emphasis placed on Joint integration of 4th and 5th generation assets from the Air National Guard, Air Force, Navy and Marines