Just when you thought that the main job of NORAD was to track Santa and his reindeer as they cross the skies of the world, it turns out there is something else for them to do.
In two separate incidents today, their aircraft intercepted general aviation aircraft that had lost their way, both over New York, in restricted airspace, about 45 minutes apart.
The first was at 1:00 p.m. EST. It was intercepted by a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, flying under the direction of North American Aerospace Defense Command. The aircraft entered the Temporary Flight Restricted area over New York City, N.Y., and it was escorted out of the area.
The second was 45 minutes later, at 1:45 p.m. It was also in the Temporary Flight Restricted area over New York and it was not communicating. That changed when two F-16 fighter aircraft located it and escorted it out of the area.
So it seems that NORAD’s mission is not solely to track Santa, it is to collaborate with homeland defense, security, and law enforcement partners to monitor the skies and “prevent air attacks against North America, safeguard the sovereign airspaces of the United States and Canada by responding to unknown, unwanted and unauthorized air activity approaching and operating within these airspaces, and provide aerospace and maritime warning for North America.”
The two separate NORAD press releases issued for the two incidents tell us NORAD is the bi-national Canadian and American command that is responsible for the air defense of North America and maritime warning.
One release also said that NORAD was conducting exercise flights over Northeastern New York, so they could test their response capability. They were practicing intercept and identification procedures – and probably scaring the living daylights out of those who were intercepted.
The exercise flight area was over Northeastern New York, scheduled for early morning, but, they noted, weather concerns may have delayed them.
If you were in the area between Plattsburgh and Watertown New York, you may have heard or seen the NORAD-controlled fighter jets near a military or military contracted aircraft, taking on the role of Tracks of Interest (TOI).
Although this is a lighthearted look at NORAD, we appreciate their work.
Here is more information from the press releases:
In order to test responses, systems and equipment, NORAD continuously conducts exercises with a variety of scenarios, including airspace restriction violations, hijackings and responding to unknown aircraft. All NORAD exercises are carefully planned and closely controlled.
NORAD has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout Canada and the U.S. since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.
The command has three subordinate regional headquarters: the Alaskan NORAD Region at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; the Canadian NORAD Region at Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the Continental NORAD Region at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The command is poised both tactically and strategically in our nation’s capital to provide a multilayered defense to detect, deter and prevent potential threats flying over the airspace of the United States and Canada.
NORAD has their own Facebook page, where links to their news is often posted.