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Northern Lightning Brings Fighter Jets to Duluth Skies

DULUTH, MN — You’re probably used to seeing the 148th Fighter Wing’s F-16s in the skies over the Northland, but for training exercise Northern Lightning, there’s a new jet in town.

The Navy flew in four F-18 Growlers and around 100 personnel. The exercise also involves the Army and the Reserves.

The Navy F-18s are from Washington State. The South Dakota Air Guard also flew in some F-16s for the exercise.

It’s a rare opportunity for our local pilots to share the air.

“Every body has got their own benefits and strengths and weaknesses so to be able to train together allows us to better develop our tactics,” said pilot Cpt. Jason Bright.

The 148th normally relies on simulations when they train, but actually working with the other military branches better prepares them for real-world missions.

“When you can actually see the people, talk to people, fly with people, makes a huge difference,” said Bright.

The Duluth Air National Guard base doesn’t normally get to host exercises like this, but the squadron commander hopes that will change.

“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase what we have here in Duluth and the community support we have here in Duluth and Northern Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin,” said 179th Fighter Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Paul Thornton.

During Tuesday’s takeoff, the pilots had an audience. Veterans from an area home were spending time on base.

“It reminded me of Vietnam a little bit, the sound of them,” sad Navy veteran David Beasley. “If it wasn’t for [the jets], I probably wouldn’t be alive. So thank you to all them pilots.”

It’s a reminder that training today can save lives tomorrow.

Bonney Bowman

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