Exercise Northern Lightning Overview [F-35As + others]

Variants for different customers or mission profiles
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wrightwing

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Unread post26 Nov 2020, 17:09

However, the F-35 (not surprisingly) held
its own in the air-to-air game. The ‘red’
team with its T-38s and L-159s were
always supplemented by other aircraft,
such as F-16s and F/A-18s depending on
the particular day’s manoeuvres.
One of the more interesting scenarios
included the Langley F-22s acting as ‘red
air’ and simulating a near-peer adversary
using fifth generation stealth aircraft.
Impressively during this particular scenario,
the F-35s flying with the other ‘blue’
players didn’t take any losses, despite
more than 30 adversaries.

This is a particularly noteworthy tidbit.
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quicksilver

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Unread post26 Nov 2020, 17:57

“With AI radars mutually neutralized and ineffectual, are we back to the brand of air to air fighting in play before there were air intercept radars?”

Nope. Repeat after me —

“...multi-spectral sensor fusion.”

Now say it again.
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outlaw162

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Unread post26 Nov 2020, 18:31

multi-spectral sensor fusion, multi-spectral sensor (choke) fusion....

sounds very unmanned aircraft-ish. (you're outta there 'Banger')

(Save some weight and mx and replace the radar with a ouija board)
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outlaw162

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Unread post26 Nov 2020, 18:58

Impressively during this particular scenario,
the F-35s flying with the other ‘blue’
players didn’t take any losses, despite
more than 30 adversaries.


Does that mean that no 'blue' players took any losses, which would be somewhat less than a glowing tribute to the 'red air' Raptors....or only the F-35s took no losses?
Last edited by outlaw162 on 26 Nov 2020, 19:01, edited 1 time in total.
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quicksilver

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Unread post26 Nov 2020, 19:01

“One of the more interesting scenarios included the Langley F-22s acting as ‘red air’ and simulating a near-peer adversary using fifth generation stealth aircraft. Impressively during this particular scenario, the F-35s flying with the other ‘blue’ players didn’t take any losses, despite more than 30 adversaries.”

I took it to mean no blue losses, but it could be the other that you suggest.
Last edited by quicksilver on 26 Nov 2020, 19:07, edited 1 time in total.
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outlaw162

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Unread post26 Nov 2020, 19:04

Yes, I understood the 22s were red air (edit to clarify same time as your post) but were there no blue air losses or only no F-35 losses?

the F-35s flying with the other ‘blue’ players didn’t take any losses


That phrase can be read either way. (760 on the English SAT)
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Unread post26 Nov 2020, 20:01

A fistful of fighters [Previous side bar text excerpt on previous page]
Dec 2020 Ivan Voukadinov

“Exercise Northern Lightning 2020 took place during late summer at Volk Field ANGB, Wisconsin. Ivan Voukadinov caught up with all the action

Northern Lightning, a high-end exercise in the United States’ Midwest, once again brought jet noise to the usually placid skies of Wisconsin. Although it has been held since the early 2000s, the exercise has been steadily growing and gaining popularity since being scaled up in 2015 with the integration of fourth and fifth generation platforms. Northern Lightning is one of seven Air National Guard jointly accredited exercises held at a Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC), of which four are found on the US mainland.

The set-up
This year’s Northern Lightning took place between August 10-21 and, despite the current COVID-19 situation, still attracted around 50 aircraft and 1,000 military personnel from the Air Force, National Guard, Navy and Marines. Most deployed to Volk Field in central Wisconsin, usually quiet throughout the year since there are no permanently based flying units there. There is, however, a mobile radar/communications unit, the 128th Air Control Squadron (128th ACS) which supports air operations from the ground and provides command and control for airspace users during Northern Lightning.

The Volk Field CRTC boasts a great training environment with first class air-to-air and air-to-ground opportunities and more than 30,000 cu miles of fully instrumented airspace – the perfect setting for this type of advanced training. The ranges provide a full spectrum of target sets that support live, laser, GPS-guided munitions, moving strafe and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) targets. There is also a state-of the-art Electronic Warfare (EW) range with integrated stationary and mobile threat emitters capable of replicating enemy air defence systems.

Northern Lightning began as an annual exercise, but in 2018 and 2019 grew into a biannual event with a small edition in the spring, followed by the larger one in August. In 2020, it again became annual, with the missions focused heavily around Opposed Air Interdiction (OAI) against a highly integrated air defence system composed of capable surface-to-air and air-to-air threats in a contested/degraded operationally limited (CDO) environment.

The missions and scenarios were heavily reliant on the execution of suppression/destruction of enemy air defence (SEAD/DEAD) and close air support (CAS). Offensive counter air (OCA) was also practised as the scenarios each day always involved a ‘red air’ component. The organisers built each day’s scenario based on the units’ needs and what they wanted to achieve, so while the general ‘blue air’ versus ‘red air’ guideline was always followed, there were different components and mixes of each depending on the mission parameters. The scenarios take into consideration modern near-peer adversary capabilities in order to provide a complex and dynamic threat environment.

Who took part
With slightly fewer participants than the 2018 and 2019 editions of Northern Lightning, the most important ones this year were the F-35A Lightning II aircraft from the 158th Fighter Wing (158th FW), also known as the ‘Green Mountain Boys’, from Burlington, Vermont. A total of 12 F-35As, 24 pilots, and more than 100 supporting personnel deployed to Volk Field for the exercise. This is a significant milestone as it was the first deployment ever of an ANG squadron equipped with the F-35. It was also the first major deployment of the squadron since the transition to the F-35.

The flying component of the 158th FW is the 134th Fighter Squadron (134th FS), which took its first deliveries of the F-35 in September 2019 and until the start of the exercise had a total of 16 jets on strength. Almost all of the squadron’s available F-35s were deployed, demonstrating the high level of readiness already achieved. Lt Col Robert Peel, commander of the 158th Operations Support Squadron said: “Right now, we’re in conversion so we’re trying to go through a phased approach of getting our pilots up to speed and we haven’t even accepted all of our airplanes yet. This is our first opportunity to go on the road and exercise our basic functions, being able to fly on the road with operations, maintenance, execute a daily schedule and gain exposure of these missions and understand the nuances of working with several different platforms both with the USAF and the Navy.”

The 134th FS previously flew F-16C/D Block 30 aircraft primarily in the CAS role. With the change of aircraft also came a change of primary mission as the 158th FW is now a SEAD-focused squadron, using the F-35A in the ‘Wild Weasel’ role.

Most other participants were ‘regulars’ that have been coming to Northern Lightning for the past few years, including F-22s from the 1st Fighter Wing/27th Fighter Squadron. As in previous editions, the Raptors flew from Joint Base Langley-Eustis each morning, refuelling en route. They would join the fight, then land at Volk Field to refuel and swap crews before doing it all again in reverse order.

A difference this year was that the 27th FS deployed eight F-22s and 20 pilots to Volk Field for the duration of the exercise; in previous years bad weather on the route to/from Volk Field had sometimes caused cancellations.

All the 27th FS F-22s had received the Block 3.2B software update, which allows the use of AIM-9X Block 2 and AIM-120D missiles. Use of both was simulated during manoeuvres. Also flying from Volk Field each day were T-38s from the 71st FTS (Fighter Training Squadron) as well as civilian contracted L-159E ‘Honey Badgers’ from Draken International.

The US Navy participated with five VFA-151 ‘Vigilantes’ F/A-18E Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Additional participants flew from their home bases in the vicinity including F-16Cs from the 115th FW in Truax Field ANGB, Madison, Wisconsin, the 148th FW from Duluth ANGB, Minnesota and the 114th FW resident at Joe Foss Field ANGS, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Supporting the exercise were tankers from various units, mainly KC-135Rs of the 128th ARW, which flew direction from their home at General Mitchell Air National Guard Base in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Blue against red
During the two-week exercise, 658 sorties were flown, consisting of a morning and afternoon wave each day. The scenarios varied but always featured ‘red air’ and ‘blue air’ components. Missions typically required the ‘blue’ team to eliminate targets in the ‘red’ airspace, which were heavily contested and defended not just by the ‘red’ aircraft but also by various ground-based enemy air defences.

The F-35 and F-22 units were usually working together flying ‘blue air’, with the F-22 trying to achieve air dominance and protect the strike assets. The main platform driving the scenarios was the Vermont F-35s, so the majority of missions were heavily SEAD-focused.

An F-35 pilot, Commander Peel said: “We’re trying to gain experience with the SEAD role as well as integrating with other 5th/4th-gen platforms and practising multi-role air-to-air dissimilar air combat training (DACT). We try to work in conjunction either with other assets or other F-35s in order to take out critical nodes of integrated air defence systems and/or tactical SAMs that are a threat to strikers or coalitions assets in the AOR (area of responsibility).

“The F-35 has a pretty capable EW suite built into the airplane itself. If you were a Block 50 F-16 squadron, they have an HTS (HARM targeting system) pod and that allows them to detect threats on the ground, and that’s all internal to the F-35. We’re able to detect and find SAM [surface-to-air missile] sites just with the F-35 itself and the EW system built into the airplane and we will use our bomb and missile load-out or our internal jamming to negate those threats. We’re also integrating with the F-22s on ‘blue air’ to perfect tactics and our fighter integration, so we understand everybody’s strengths and weaknesses and work together to negate threats.”

It is worth noting the F-16s from the 148th FW in Duluth as well as the F/A-18Es from VFA-151 also sometimes flew SEAD during the exercise, integrating their tactics and strategies with the F-35. One technique was to use the advanced EW capabilities of the F-35 to penetrate the air defence systems and provide targeting information to the older fourth generation aircraft which can then use their AGM-88 HARM missiles to eliminate the threats. The F-35 cannot carry HARM missiles. However, the F-35 (not surprisingly) held its own in the air-to-air game. The ‘red’ team with its T-38s and L-159s were always supplemented by other aircraft, such as F-16s and F/A-18s depending on the particular day’s manoeuvres.

One of the more interesting scenarios included the Langley F-22s acting as ‘red air’ and simulating a near-peer adversary using fifth generation stealth aircraft. Impressively during this particular scenario, the F-35s flying with the other ‘blue’ players didn’t take any losses, despite more than 30 adversaries.

Lessons learned
The 158th FW achieved another milestone in the course of the exercise, flying their 1,000th F-35 sortie since the conversion to the F-35 began last year. The challenges and learning opportunities still remain, however, as Lt Col Peel explained: “We’re hoping that a year from now to be fairly well versed in all of the different types of missions we’re expected to employ the airplane, in different theatres. We are still on the first third of that training window. Just gaining exposure and reps – this is the first time a lot of our pilots have been working into large force exercises in the F-35.

“The basic flying of the aircraft, we have at a high level coming out of training. It’s the employment of the airplane that you have to get exposure to, and this is our first step in the conversion process. There are things we have done with our tactics that haven’t been perfect. The airplanes are performing great and I’d say it’s more of our learning curve on our side. We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to work and employ with each other so there’s more things that the operators themselves have done that haven’t been efficient but nothing that can’t be fixed with proper tactics.”

It sounds like Northern Lightning was the ideal playground for the ‘Green Mountain Boys’ from Vermont as they approached the first anniversary of flying the F-35A.”

Source: AIR International Dec 2020 Vol 99 No 6
A4G Skyhawk: www.faaaa.asn.au/spazsinbad-a4g/ & www.youtube.com/channel/UCwqC_s6gcCVvG7NOge3qfAQ/videos?view_as=subscriber
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wrightwing

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Unread post27 Nov 2020, 01:25

outlaw162 wrote:
Impressively during this particular scenario,
the F-35s flying with the other ‘blue’
players didn’t take any losses, despite
more than 30 adversaries.


Does that mean that no 'blue' players took any losses, which would be somewhat less than a glowing tribute to the 'red air' Raptors....or only the F-35s took no losses?

It sounds like no F-35 losses, given the context.
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quicksilver

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Unread post27 Nov 2020, 02:00

“760 on the English SAT“

Well...here in the States it was referred to as the ‘Verbal’ part of the test. How’d you do on that one?
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outlaw162

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Unread post27 Nov 2020, 02:17

I misinterpreted verbal as gerbil or it might have been an 800 also, like the 'numbers' test....but the test was in English and didn't deal solely with verbs as far as I recall. Maybe that's why I was only 1st alternate to CIT. Fortunate or might never have ended up in jets. :D

(I almost changed it to verbal after re-reading, but I figured that was a waste of what limited time I have left.)

How did you do?
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Unread post27 Nov 2020, 02:48

outlaw162 wrote:I misinterpreted verbal as gerbil or it might have been an 800 also, like the 'numbers' test....but the test was in English and didn't deal solely with verbs as far as I recall. Maybe that's why I was only 1st alternate to CIT. Fortunate or might never have ended up in jets. :D

(I almost changed it to verbal after re-reading, but I figured that was a waste of what limited time I have left.)

How did you do?


Well enough to avoid ending up in the USAF.
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outlaw162

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Unread post27 Nov 2020, 04:29

Since they took away my F-105 and put me in a T-37, I'm certainly the last person to be defensive about humorous USAF jabs. 19 of my 24 years were Guard and Reserve, all fighter time, all where I wanted to be, no desk, and a satisfyingly different culture at that time. USAF personnel system could be an intricate trap for aviators at that time with all the irrelevant requirements that had little to do with flying airplanes.

However, in fairness, unlike USMC, I don't think USAF was allowed to add 'neck size' to their SAT scores.
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Unread post27 Nov 2020, 04:45

Funni you mention 'neck size'. Looks like USAF wants their fiterPilotes to muscle up (for the longevity innit & neckcircum).
Preserving fighter pilot readiness through preventative care [& IQ Enhancement?] 23 Nov 2020
https://www.acc.af.mil/News/Article-Dis ... tive-care/
"...“The main goal of this is for us to come together as a team and ensure their necks and backs stay protected, so they can have a long career,” Carpenter added. Neck and back injuries are common in individuals who experience significant compression from G-forces. OHWS takes the necessary steps through preventative care to reduce the rate at which these injuries occur...."
A4G Skyhawk: www.faaaa.asn.au/spazsinbad-a4g/ & www.youtube.com/channel/UCwqC_s6gcCVvG7NOge3qfAQ/videos?view_as=subscriber
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Unread post29 Nov 2020, 14:28

More than 30 red air adversaries, including F-22's and...... F-35's (perhaps even the entire Blue team) took no losses? That's about as impressive as it gets. Must have some real whiz bang tech to essentially disable a Raptor (and friends).

If I'm a Russian/Chinese fighter pilot, my day just got a lot worse after hearing that...
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Unread post29 Nov 2020, 15:28

mixelflick wrote:More than 30 red air adversaries, including F-22's and...... F-35's (perhaps even the entire Blue team) took no losses? That's about as impressive as it gets. Must have some real whiz bang tech to essentially disable a Raptor (and friends).

If I'm a Russian/Chinese fighter pilot, my day just got a lot worse after hearing that...

Or not. They have the internet so they know the APG-81 jammed the APG-77. They may think they can do it too. They know the F-35 has multi spectral sensor fusion. They may think theirs is up to the task. This may make them think that the F-22 is no longer anything that needs to be feared.
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