‘Northern Lightning’ wraps up

Photo: Jonathan Derden

Exercise ‘Northern Lightning 18-2’ took place between August 13-24 at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center in central Wisconsin. This particular exercise was the largest to date, fielding more than 1,600 personnel and approximately 70 aircraft from 17 different units spread across the US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marine Corps. USAF Reserve Command and the Air National Guard also took part, making it the largest joint exercise in the history of ‘Northern Lightning’.
Prior to 2018, ‘Northern Lightning’ was only an annual exercise; but, following the tremendous success of the 2017 iteration and resultant Joint National Training Capability accreditation, it is now a part of the ‘Regional Exercise’ or REX Program. REX includes other Large Force Employment exercises like ‘Sentry Aloha’ in Hawaii and ‘Sentry Savannah’ in Georgia. With the influx of additional resources, a newly-renovated battlespace, and accolades from participating units, two installments per year will likely be the standard going forward.
‘Northern Lightning’ is designed to enhance 5th Generation Fighter Integration, known as ‘FI’, and improve architectures and interoperability between services in a Contested, Degraded, and Operationally-limited (CDO) environment. An additional component of ’18-2′ was the presence of active-duty USAF operational test entities from the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group, as well as Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) assets. Test platforms included F-15C, F-15E, and F-16s, with those aircraft validating new hardware and software upgrades in a Link-intensive, CDO environment.
Col Chad Milne, Exercise Director and state Director of Operations for the Wisconsin Air National Guard, summed the exercise up nicely. ‘Ultimately everyone has the same goal in the end of becoming a more lethal force. So whether you’re participating in ‘Northern Lightning’ as a test squadron or a combat-coded squadron, you’re here for the very same reason: to be a better warfighter.’
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