CAMP DOUGLAS, WI — 1,000 personnel from 20 units are practicing combat scenarios this week during an annual joint military exercise held at Volk Field this week, including the 148th Fighter Wing of Duluth.
The units will be practicing combat scenarios using some of the latest technology that the military has to offer, including F-35s, high tech planes which are a fifth generation combat strikers, and a step up from the F-16’s.
“It’s just a night and day difference, you can’t really compare the two,” says Zachary Clements, the Flight Commander for the 58th Squadron of the U.S. Air Force.
Clements has been flying in the Air Force since 2012, primarily with the F-16, but now he’s trying an F-35, and it’s all a new ball game.
“The best comparison is 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?”
Authorities say one of the best benefits of the F-35 is its 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,” says Clements.
That’s why pilots are training now, to communicate with other high tech planes and ground systems in a changing 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,” says Col. Bart Van Roo, the Northern Lightning Exercise Director.
All of the drills and practices open lines of communication to prepare for real life combat situations.
In addition, the Duluth Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee will be at Volk Field getting an up close look at the F-35 in action.