Hearing ‘sonic booms’ overhead? This might be why

Local News

(WFRV) – Have you noticed some loud booms overhead recently? It’s likely due to ongoing training involving military aircraft from seven states, including Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs says about 50 aircraft and nearly 1,000 personnel from the National Guard, Air Force, Army, and Navy participate in the annual Northern Lightning Counterland training exercise at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center.

The training, which runs from August 10-21 this year, began in the early 2000s before expanding to a large-scale exercise in 2015. In 2018 and 2019, it served as a biannual exercise and in 2020, it returned to an annual exercise.

Northern Lightning is a tactical level, joint training exercise replicating today’s air battle space with current and future weapons platforms, according to the DMA. A variety of the world’s most advanced aircraft including fifth-generation aircraft like the F-35 will participate in the exercise.

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.

“We are excited to continue conducting our annual Northern Lightning exercise at Volk Field,” said Col. 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 aircrews 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.

“This exercise will include potential supersonic travel, within FAA and military guidelines, so people in the military operating area, a 55 by 200-mile space, may hear sonic booms between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 pm during weekdays,” Van Roo said. “We appreciate everyone’s patience as it is a necessary part of the preparation for actual combat.”

Those living in the following counties can anticipate increased military flight operations in the airspace: Adams, Brown, Calumet, Clark, Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Jackson, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, Outagamie, Portage, Sauk, Sheboygan, Trempealeau, Waupaca, Winnebago, and Wood.

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