On Aug. 9, an U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon dropped a 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) in a designated area of Fort McCoy’s impact area on North Post for the first time in post history as part of training in the Northern Lightning 2021 exercise. The Northern Lightning exercise is centered every year at Volk Field, Wis., which is about 30 miles from Fort McCoy. The historical training mark of the use of the JDAM at Fort McCoy also occurred in the same week as another historical event when 40th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. James McConville visited the installation. For the 2021 exercise, Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center hosted approximately 50 aircraft and nearly 1,000 members of the National Guard, Air Force, Army, and Navy as part of the exercise.
Units from California, Idaho, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin will all participate in the exercise Aug. 10-21. Northern Lightning began in the early 2000s before expanding into a large-scale exercise in 2015. It became a biannual exercise in 2018 and 2019 and returned to an annual exercise in 2020. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level joint training exercise replicating today’s air battlespace with current and future weapons platforms.
“This was the first time we’ve had use of a guided munition like this at Fort McCoy, and it demonstrates the great work that our range planners and range safety experts did to make it possible. Our team did a fantastic job coordinating the surface danger zone areas for using the JDAMs. That was not an easy thing to do, but I think it’s a great thing to see it worked out. It adds another dimension of training capability to the installation,” said Training Coordination Chief Larry Sharp with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS).
The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is a joint Air Force and Navy program. According to the U.S. Air Force fact sheet about JDAMs, the JDAM is a guidance tail kit that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurate, adverse-weather “smart” munitions. The JDAM used primarily during the bombing training at Fort McCoy was the 500-pound BLU-111/MK 82 warhead. The JDAM improves the accuracy of unguided, general-purpose bombs in any weather condition. Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin. The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services nearly every year since 1984.