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CONR flights to support STS-117 launch

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, FLA. -- With the launch of Space Shuttle mission STS-117, fighters assigned to the U.S. Continental NORAD Region have stepped up air defense deterrence missions in the Cape Canaveral area.

In additional to the increased sorties in the area, two F-16s from the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, S.C., will fly low approaches on June 6 at eight regional airports in the vicinity of Kennedy Space Center.

These airports include Melbourne International, Space Coast Regional, the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Station, New Smyrna Beach Municipal, Daytona Beach International, Orlando Sanford International, and Kissimmee Gateway airport.

They will be supported and air-refueled by KC-135R Stratotankers from the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Meridian, Miss.

According to 1st Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Hank Morrow, the patrols are a smart, efficient way to increase security and while helping to protect space shuttle launch operations in central Florida.

"The North American Aerospace Defense Command protects a variety of national assets throughout the nation on any given day," said General Morrow. "In this case we're increasing our sorties in the Cape Canaveral area during the Space Shuttle STS-117 launch window."

"Those flights, as well as other sorties supporting STS-117, are part of CONR's continuing mission to protect America's airways and national assets," he said.
The sorties are carefully planned and closely controlled to ensure public safety while displaying NORAD's rapid response capability. CONR, under its parent command NORAD, has conducted air patrols throughout the U.S. and Canada since the start of Operation Noble Eagle -- the command's response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Although not in response to any specific threat, the sorties are an important element in the overall homeland defense mission.

"We want local citizens to recognize this as a prudent measure as we work around the clock for their continued protection," General Morrow said.

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Media wanting to cover the low approaches should contact Mr. Mike Strickler, 1st AF Public Affairs, at 850-541-4411, 850-890-2661, or mike.strickler@tyndall.af.mil, for details and times.