- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The United States’ most advanced warplanes are roaring through the skies of Wisconsin as part of air combat exercises that spotlight the state’s case for a big investment of Pentagon dollars in Madison.

The Air Force began honing aerial warfare tactics Monday over a 12,000-square-mile (31,080-sq. kilometer) swath 90 miles (144 kilometers) northwest of Madison to test high-tech sensory capabilities of a new generation of jet fighters, the Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/2p8BWfV ) reported. During the 12 days of the Air National Guard’s Northern Lightning training exercise, places such as Marshfield and Black River Falls will stand in as simulated enemy installations.

The exercise also serves to showcase all the features Wisconsin leaders are counting on to persuade the Air Force to station a squadron of its newest fighter jets at the Air Guard’s Truax Field. It will make use of the guard’s advanced bombing range at Volk Field and its new secure operations building, along with a broad swath of military air space, and access to bases in Madison and Milwaukee.

Wisconsin is one of five states with bases the military is considering for the F-35 fighter jets. The state is competing against Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Alabama; Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho; Jacksonville Air National Guard Base in Florida; and Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Detroit.

Business leaders in Madison say the jets would ensure that Truax’s jobs and economic benefits would stay in place after its aging F-16 warplanes are retired.

The exercise will involve dozens of aircraft from bases as far away as California and about 1,500 military personnel.

Col. Chad Milne, state Air National Guard operations director said Air Force and Air Guard pilots, Navy SEALs, Marines who will control air-to-air combat simulations and Army soldiers handling support duties will participate.

For one portion of the exercise, as many as 30 aircraft will be in the air at once.

“It doesn’t take much to see how important this is to our national defense,” said Lt. Col. Chris Hansen, Volk’s operations director. “With these new airplanes coming online, the existing crews need to know how to fly with the new aircraft. It’s extremely, extremely important.”

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj


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