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Canadian and U.S. forces conduct bi-national air defense exercise

  • Published

Members of NORAD’s Continental U.S. (CONR) and Canadian (CANR) Regions participated in a bi-national air defense exercise amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, April 23rd, 2020, near the U.S. and Canadian border.

“The aerospace defense of Canada and the United States is assured even during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Canadian Maj. Gen. Derek Joyce, deputy commander, NORAD’s Continental U.S. Region. “Our militaries are prepared to take on multiple challenges including defending the skies while simultaneously being in support of a global effort to fight the pandemic.”

Representatives came together from the Air National Guard and Royal Canadian Air Force. The 104th Fighter Wing, Westfield, Massachusetts, provided F-15 Eagles, 3 Wing, Bagotville, Quebec, provided CF-18 Hornets. The 101st Air Refueling Wing, Bangor, Maine, and 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, provided KC- 135 Stratotankers, enforcing NORAD’s interoperability and 24-7 commitment to defending the homelands.

Joyce went on to say that CONR and CANR are responsible for providing the air defense for the continental U.S. and Canada as part of the NORAD mission.

“I am proud of the efforts of our people as we carry out our no-fail binational mission,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Ed “Hertz” Vaughan, deputy commander, Canadian NORAD Region, and deputy Joint Forces Air Component commander for 1 Canadian Air Division. “Our Canadian and American warriors and their families stand watch to support our citizens and meet any challenge during this crisis.”

Currently, to keep a healthy, responsive force during COVID-19, members of CONR and CANR are practicing social distancing, proper hygiene and exercising personal protective gear wear measures when appropriate.

All safety measures have been adopted to protect service members to ensure zero risk to the NORAD mission.

“In the words of Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, together the team can help ‘plank the curve’ of this pandemic,” said Vaughan.

During the exercise, hand-off procedures between U.S. and Canadian fighter jets were conducted while executing intercept operations of a KC-135 Stratotanker. The KC-135 simulated a suspicious flight, known as a Track-of-Interest that crossed from Canadian to U.S. airspace. Additionally, the Stratotankers provided in-flight refueling for the CF-18s and F-15s.

“The 104th Fighter Wing works regularly with the Royal Canadian Air Force during real-world and training missions,” said U.S. Air Force Col. David Halasikun, commander, 104th Fighter Wing Mission Support Group. “Our interoperability has proven seamless throughout the years. The skills and professionalism of their controllers and pilots make them excellent partners as we defend the skies of North America. Especially during these trying times, we stand together, ready to protect our countries and defend our citizens.”

This exercise has been carefully planned and closely controlled to ensure CONR and CANR’s rapid response capability. NORAD has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout the United States and Canada since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Additionally, this bi-national exercise provided the opportunity for both regions to hone tactical intercept and
hand-off skills.

NORAD remains vigilant to the continued 24-7 defense of North America. A bi-national Canadian and American command, NORAD employs a network of space-based, aerial and ground-based sensors, air-to-air refueling tankers and fighter aircraft on alert, controlled by a sophisticated command and control network to deter, detect and defend against aerial threats that originate outside or within North American airspace.