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AZ Guard Jets, Airmen Participate in Air Defense Exercise over Southern Arizona

  • Published
  • By Maj. Angela Walz
  • 162nd Wing

Airmen assigned to Detachment 2, 162nd Wing, participated in a Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) exercise, dubbed Exercise Felix Hawk, over Southern Arizona on Jan. 18.

Felix Hawk is designed to test WADS’ intercept and identification procedures for a variety of scenarios involving possible hostile aircraft. Residents in the Southern Arizona may observe additional F-16 flights, and the exercise also includes the Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center, Tucson Terminal Radar Approach Control, other Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facilities in the region, as well as various Arizona Civil Air Patrol Cessna aircraft.  The training flights are coordinated with the FAA and the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command Region.

“This exercise is a great way to test our preparedness for any threat to U.S. airspace sovereignty.  We train in these scenarios often, but it’s important to understand and value any experience that gives us more insight into the unique operational capabilities and limitations of our aircraft, our partners, and our adversaries in the airspace defense arena,” said Lt. Col. Frank Lusher, Detachment 2 Commander. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our Airmen,” he said.

These exercises are carefully planned and closely controlled to ensure WADS’s rapid response capability. WADS has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout the western region since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“This exercise ensures that we are able to answer our nation’s call at any moment,” said Maj. Robert Barlow, Detachment 2 Director of Operations. “It allows our team to practice and gain more experience performing their challenging jobs. It is also an exercise in teamwork, not only for our team here, but for all of the participants. Our team is always at the top of their game and exercises like Felix Hawk push them to be even better,” he said.

WADS and its eastern counterpart - Eastern Air Defense Sector in Rome, N.Y., are part of the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region. CONR, as the continental United States geographical component of the bi-national command NORAD, provides airspace surveillance and control, and directs air sovereignty activities for the CONUS region. CONR and its assigned Air Force assets throughout the country ensure air safety and security against potential air threats.

Felix Hawk is a recurring exercise in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE, which places emphasis on the warning and control of airspace over Canada and the United States. The defense of North America is NORAD's top priority and NORAD remains on alert and prepared to respond to security threats 24/7.

For more than 60 years, NORAD has identified and intercepted potential air threats to North America through the execution of the command’s aerospace warning and aerospace control missions. NORAD also keeps watch over Canadian and U.S. internal waterways and maritime approaches under its maritime warning mission.