The Iowa Air National Guard is launching a major training exercise this week that’ll feature squadrons of F-16 fighter jets zooming overhead, practicing maneuvers they’ll use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guard spokesman Major Mike Wunn says Operation Badger Denial will run about four weeks over several sections of the state.

"There’s going to be some aircraft operating in the Des Moines area as they move up to northwestern Iowa," Wunn says. "It’ll be in the area from Rockwell City around Carroll, Charter Oak and Ida Grove." He says those warplanes will be flying between ten-thousand and 18-thousand feet, but may also be as low as three-thousand feet. Some missions will involve the aircraft whooshing around as late as midnight and they may be dropping bright red flares.

Wunn says there will be a host of military vehicles on the ground, too, including convoys of tractor trailers, cargo trucks and humvees. The exercise is scheduled to run through September 4th. "What we want to do is make sure the public understands that this training is going on and that they have an idea of what it is," Wunn says.

"Really, it’s an opportunity for this unit, the 132nd Fighter Wing, to prepare for overseas missions as they come, and they’re able to do some of that training right here in Iowa and get ready for those overseas deployments." Wunn says the reconnaissance and combat support missions will involve sophisticated optics and communications equipment, including night vision equipment and laser technology.

He says the lasers won’t be detectable by the naked eye as they’re used more by the personnel in the aircraft to target things on the ground. He says KC-135 tanker aircraft from the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City will be operating in areas from Spencer to Estherville.

He says all aircraft and vehicles taking part in Badger Denial will be clearly marked, vehicles will have U.S. Government license plates and all personnel will be in uniform.