Anti-Terror Exercises Planned for D.C. Skies

NORAD announces exercises as a warning for public


Air Force and Coast Guard aircraft will fly "intercept and identification" exercises over Washington tonight as part of efforts to prevent suicide aircraft attacks or other threats to the capital, a military spokesman said.

The latest exercise of what the North American Aerospace Defense Command calls "Falcon Virgo" involves Civil Air Patrol Cessna-182 light aircraft and a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter between 11:30 p.m. Monday and 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, NORAD said in a statement.

"We want to make sure people seeing these planes aren’t concerned," said NORAD spokesman John Cornelio.

"One of the reasons we put out notice of the exercise is so that anyone seeing a military aircraft in close proximity to a civilian aircraft will know that this is a controlled and carefully planned NORAD live exercise," he said.

No unmanned aerial vehicles will be used, said another spokeswoman.

Details of the scenario for the exercise could not be learned. However, it is expected to involve the helicopter intercepting the Cessna posing as a threat aircraft.

Airspace over the nation’s capital is tightly controlled and aircraft that stray into restricted airspace near the White House, Capitol, and national monuments risk being shot down by military aircraft.

During the September 11 terrorist attacks against the Pentagon and attempted strike on either the White House or Congress using hijacked airliners, U.S. military jets had to be scrambled from southern Virginia.

Since those attacks, the U.S. military has set up a defense system to better protect the region from such threats.

Past Falcon Virgo exercises have used F-16 jets based at Andrews Air Force Base, ground-based Avenger anti-aircraft missile batteries deployed at the southern end of the Navy-Air Force Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, and Stinger and shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles deployed at undisclosed locations.

Cornelio said the main purpose of the exercise is to test the command and control system called the Joint Air Defense Operation Center, located at Anacostia-Bolling.

"The exercise is comprised of a series of training flights held in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the NCR Coordination Center, the Joint Air Defense Operations Center (JADOC), Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and CONR's Eastern Air Defense Sector," the NORAD statement said.

"Exercise Falcon Virgo is designed to hone NORAD's intercept and identification operations as well as operationally test the NCR Visual Warning System and certify newly assigned command and control personnel at JADOC."

The exercises are part of the military’s "rapid response capability" for the region, the statement added.

Bill Gertz   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill Gertz is senior editor of the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon he was a national security reporter, editor, and columnist for 27 years at the Washington Times. Bill is the author of seven books, four of which were national bestsellers. His most recent book was iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age, a look at information warfare in its many forms and the enemies that are waging it. Bill has an international reputation. Vyachaslav Trubnikov, head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, once called him a “tool of the CIA” after he wrote an article exposing Russian intelligence operations in the Balkans. A senior CIA official once threatened to have a cruise missile fired at his desk after he wrote a column critical of the CIA’s analysis of China. And China’s communist government has criticized him for news reports exposing China’s weapons and missile sales to rogue states. The state-run Xinhua news agency in 2006 identified Bill as the No. 1 “anti-China expert” in the world. Bill insists he is very much pro-China—pro-Chinese people and opposed to the communist system. Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld once told him: “You are drilling holes in the Pentagon and sucking out information.” His Twitter handle is @BillGertz.

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