JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
While the New England Patriots were taking on the Philadelphia Eagles during Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis Sunday, the Western Air Defense Sector was guarding the airspace around U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Super Bowl is considered a National Special Security Event which brings together dozens of federal, state, county and local agencies working in a consolidated effort to ensure the safety and security of airspace around the event. These agencies have been planning and conducting practice exercises over the last year in the Minneapolis area in preparation for Super Bowl LII.
In order to protect the skies around this type of event, the Federal Aviation Administration imposed a temporary 30-mile radius flight restricted area (TFR) around U.S. Bank Stadium from 3 p.m. to midnight (CST) during game day and it is NORAD’s job to enforce it.
“Basically, no aircraft is allowed in the 30-mile perimeter without proper clearance,” said Lt. Col. Brian Bergren, 225th Air Defense Squadron director of operations. “The airspace is sanitized to ensure we have positive control over all air traffic in and out of that air space in order to provide security for the event.”
Private pilots have been known to violate the airspace, so it is the WADS responsibility to direct on station fighter aircraft to escort them out of the restricted airspace, explained Lt. Col. Eric Corder, assistant director of operations for the 225th Air Defense Squadron.
The WADS was responsible for command and control of the F-16 fighter jets from the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn., that enforced the TFR zone.
WADS also worked with Customs and Border Protection’s UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters which conducted airborne patrols over the stadium and restricted areas as well.
During the Super Bowl, WADS responded to only one aircraft which tripped thresholds of the restricted areas. “I would attribute the low number of intercepts during this year’s Super Bowl to the community outreach efforts by the FAA and First Air Force,” explained Bergren.
In comparison, the WADS responded to 10 aircraft during the 2017 Super Bowl and three aircraft during the 2016 Super Bowl which either tripped thresholds of the restricted areas or were of potential concern to air defense efforts during the Super Bowl.