NORAD Intercept Operations, TFRs and You


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Retired Lt. Col. Ray "Worf" Bonita discusses what general aviation pilots need to understand regarding restricted air space, and how to handle themselves if they are intercepted by NORAD.

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  • The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a bi-national United States and Canadian organization. Our NORAD Mission Statement states that in close collaboration with homeland defense, security, and law enforcement partners, we will 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 warning and control and maritime warning for North America. This briefing will focus on our aerospace control mission. To accomplish the aerospace control mission, NORAD uses a network of satellites, ground-based radar, airborne radar, fighter and helicopter aircraft to detect, intercept and, if necessary, engage any air-breathing threat to North America. Through outstanding bi-national cooperation, NORAD has proven itself effective in its roles of watching, warning, and responding. NORAD continues to play an important role in the defense of Canada and the U.S. by evolving to meet the changing threat. The events of September 11, 2001 demonstrated NORAD’s continued relevance to North American security. Today, NORAD provides civil authorities with a potent military response capability to counter domestic airspace threats. While the national leadership of Canada and the U.S. continue to refine our response to the terrorist threat, NORAD’s proven abilities and unique capabilities will remain a vital part of homeland defense. Our most solemn obligation is to defend our homelands. This obligation demands an unyielding commitment to leadership and an abiding pledge to succeed. We cannot afford to fail, for the stakes are too high. Continually challenging assumptions and the status quo is crucial to our Commands’ endurance and relevance. We will respond not a minute too soon, or a second too late. Our Command fully relies on the relationships we maintain with our partners. While we have multiple partners and stakeholders, we are united in purpose to provide increased security and defense of North America. We will capitalize on the experience, expertise and capabilities of all potential partners, incorporating these into our plans, training, exercises and operations. We must be able to work with every government, Service, and agency that provides members to serve in homeland and continental defense operations. These unique relationships produce trust, enhanced capabilities, mutual advocacy and the culture of collaboration requisite to achieve our missions. We will continue to lead military efforts to integrate, coordinate and synchronize with partners from all sectors, sources and levels as we advocate to accomplish our collective missions. This training is designed to provide an understanding of how we accomplish our aerospace control mission. Please use the link at the end of this brief to send us an email with your comments to help improve the training. In addition to endorsing tangible improvements, we regularly encourage innovative approaches and philosophies for an effective combined defense. Thank you.
  • Defense of our homeland has the potential to impact everyone that approaches the airspace or operates within the airspace of the United States and Canada. It is critical that airmen comply with aviation regulations. Non-compliance or incorrectly applied procedures may result in loss of you pilot license and at a minimum has the potential of putting yourself, your crew and your passengers in peril. Today we will provide information that can prevent being intercepted by military aircraft, a review of the procedures to follow when intercepted and what to expect from the interceptor aircraft.
  • The decision to scramble or direct airborne fighters to intercept a TOI can be broken down into four areas: Consistent with NORADs aerospace warning and control missions, NORAD will attempt to identify any unknown aircraft penetrating the US and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The ADIZ is prominently displayed on aeronautical charts, so become familiar with the procedures of filing flight plans, squawking and talking to ATC if your flight will cross the ADIZ. NORAD will first attempting to contact the aircraft by radio and coordinate the identification of aircraft with our interagency partners (FAA, AMOC, etc) when not squawking inside the ADIZ. NORAD decision to scramble or intercept an aircraft crossing or inside the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) or presidential TFR (for example) is made while coordinating for additional information from FAA and other agencies. Aircraft type, position and vector will determine the amount of time available prior to making a decision to intercept. Remember, the National Capital Region has a ground based visual warning system to alert aircraft and a ground based air defense capability. NORAD considers this ground based air defense capability a last resort. NORAD always wants to have close contact (eyes on with NORAD fighters or helicopters) with a suspect aircraft to aid in determining the potential threat. Transition: Let’s look at so other specific reason NORAD may intercept your aircraft.
  • You may be considered to be a potential threat for any of these reasons: We may decide to intercept you if you have a passenger on the No-Fly list and through coordination with other government intelligence sources. If the decision is to intercept the aircraft, then we may remain beyond visual range and shadow the flight path of the aircraft. In this case we will work with ATC to ensure we don’t activate an aircrafts TCAS. You may also be intercepted if your aircraft is NORDO for a significant period of time, or NORDO and close to, or approaching a critical point on the ground; Not on your flight plan; Deviating from standard flight rules or not squawking the correct Mode 3A beacon code, or if you identify that there is a disturbance on-board you aircraft. These items don’t guarantee you will be intercepted, but they do guarantee that NORAD is looking at the situation to make that determination. Finally, NORAD may intercept your aircraft if a federal agency requests assistance from NORAD. Transition: Next, let’s look at what we may do to try to contact you.
  • If ATC is unable to contact your aircraft, the Air Defense Sector (ADS) will attempt contact on guard frequency. If the aircraft is intercepted, the intercept aircraft may attempt radio contact on the assigned ATC frequency or emergency (guard) frequencies of 121.5 Megahertz or 243.0 Megahertz. Understand that FAA will also attempt to determine aircraft intent through contact with corporate operations or by the phone number on your flight plan. Transition: What if radio contact is not established? FACT: Authorization to dispense flares will come from a NORAD controlling agency or above.
  • If unable to establish contact and you are intercepted, the interceptors may visually inspect your aircraft and then initiate ICAO intercept signals to get your attention and determine your intentions. We will discuss specific intercept procedures for guide and headbutt in a few minutes. The interceptor will use ICAO intercept procedures or if in radio contact will tell the pilot the desired divert heading. You must comply and follow the interceptors instructions. If talking to ATC, inform them of the situation and instructions you are getting from the interceptor. You may be directed to conduct a series of ‘confidence turns’, by the interceptor or ATC, to verify compliance to instruction and that you are non-threatening. If you are not complying with the interceptors instructions or are approaching a critical area on the ground, or inside restricted airspace, the interceptor will headbutt and use flares to indicate you are undertaking threatening actions. Transition: Review this excerpt from the Aeronautical Information Manual concerning Radio set-up and ICAO intercept procedures. FACT: Authorization to dispense flares will come from a NORAD controlling agency or above.
  • The best way to reduce presenting a threatening behavior is to comply with ATC instructions and monitor VHF or UHF emergency/guard frequencies. If not able to maintain a listening watch and you are intercepted, notify ATC of the situation and switch to emergency/guard frequency to talk directly to the interceptor. Get into the books and re-familiarize yourself with ICAO intercept procedures. Noncompliance may result in the use of force. Transition: Next, let’s look at ICAO intercept procedures.
  • The Aeronautical Information Manual provides details on ICAO intercept procedures. Don’t be startled when a fighter or helicopter shows up on your wing. It is crucial that you maintain your current heading, altitude and airspeed and remain calm. Although you may be very uncomfortable with an aircraft close to you, the interceptor will ensure aircraft separation and will not be a conflict to your flight path. Comply with his directions. Also be aware that there may be an additional interceptor that you don’t see. Transition: What are your responsibilities and actions after being intercepted?
  • Tune your radio to guard frequency and attempt radio contact. If equipped with a transponder, select mode 3/A code 7700, if able. Directions over the radio, received directly from the intercept pilot can be more concise and easier to understand. Don’t forget to rock your wings after the interceptor wing rock to confirm that you are aware of his presence. You may hear on your radio the following: “ Cessna 7336 Delta Tango, this is an armed air defense fighter on 121.5. You have been intercepted. If you read me. Acknowledge this transmission and rock your wings.” “ What are your intentions?” “Do you require assistance?” If the fighter needs immediate compliance you will hear: “ Cessna 7336 Delta Tango, this is the armed air defense fighter on your left wing, you are ordered to… “ Turn to heading XXX immediately to exit restricted airspace.” or other specific guidance that you must follow to reduce the possibility of being engaged. Transition: Let’s look at a video of a fighter intercept, wing rock and then look at more visual procedures.
  • NORAD may divert your aircraft to a nearby airfield that is suitable for your type of aircraft. After the initial intercept and the fighter rocks his wings and gets your acknowledgement, he will roll out on a heading that he wants you to turn to. You must comply and turn to the heading set by the interceptor. Reattempt to contact the interceptor on guard frequency and attempt to contact ATC if the ATC frequency is known. For aircraft speed above approximately 250 mph, one fighter interceptor will remain close to the aircraft and the other will remain 1-5 miles behind the aircraft. For aircraft that are slower than 250 mph, the fighter interceptor will be unable to slow to your speed. The two fighter interceptors will orchestrate a ‘racetrack’ pattern. One fighter will slow to identify the aircraft during a slow-speed pass and then turn 180 degrees and reposition to 3-5 mile trail while the second fighter will move into a position to be able to further identify or guide the aircraft. This will continue until the aircraft lands at the divert field or the fighters are told to discontinue the mission. Transition: Let’s look at a video of an interceptor directing the intercepted aircraft to follow then we will look at the Headbutt maneuver?
  • In a continuing effort to safely enforce TFR’s, NORAD interceptors have developed procedures to communicate with aircraft with unknown intentions. These procedures augment standard International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Interceptor procedures and will soon be incorporated in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). A NORAD interceptor dispensing flares in your vicinity is attempting to communicate the following: 1.      Pay attention 2.      Contact Air Traffic Control immediately on the local frequency or 121.5 / 243.0 3.      Follow the interceptor’s ICAO visual signals 4.      Non-compliance may result in the use of force  These procedures will be initiated only after radio communication efforts have been unsuccessful and will be accomplished with the highest regard for the safety of the intercepted aircraft and it’s passengers and are practiced regularly by NORAD assets. As always, aircraft not complying with posted flight restrictions face certificate action and possible prosecution.   Every person operating aircraft in the US and Canada has an important role to play in air sovereignty through thorough flight planning and review of posted flight restrictions and NOTAMS. Wide dissemination and understanding of what it means when flares are dispensed is an important part of this flight planning process.  Questions about NORAD may be addressed to NORAD Public Affairs, Peterson AFB, CO (719) 554-6889.
  • If you see the interceptor dispense flares and maneuver in front of your aircraft, you must pay strict attention and immediately follow the interceptors directions. Failure to comply at this point is not recommended. If tuned to guard frequency you may hear on the radio: “ If you do not follow these instructions, you may be fired upon.” Transition: Here is a video of the headbutt maneuver. After the video we will look at : (GA brief) How NORAD Helicopter intercept procedures differ from fighter intercept procedures. (Corporate/commercial carriers) The Visual Warning System to alert pilots in the Washington D.C. Special Fight Rules Area (SFRA).
  • NORAD also employs helicopters to intercept low and slow aircraft. Helicopter may be approached from any azimuth, although the helicopter should close for identification and signaling from the stern. Generally, the helicopter will approach off the left side of the intercepted aircraft. Safe separation between the helicopter and the unidentified aircraft will be maintained at all times The helicopter will initiate a controlled closure toward the aircraft of interest, holding at a distance no closer than deemed necessary to establish positive identification and gather the necessary information. The intercepted pilot should expect the interceptor helicopter to take a position off his left wing slightly forward of abeam. Transition:
  • Post intercept procedures are the same ICAO intercept procedures used when intercepted by a fighter aircraft. Visual signaling devices may be employed in an attempt to communicate with the intercepted aircraft. Visual signaling devices may include, but are not limited to, LED scrolling signboards or blue flashing lights. If compliance is not attained through the use of radios or signaling devices, standard ICAO intercept signals (Table 5-6-1) may be employed. In order to maintain safe aircraft separation, it is incumbent upon the pilot of the intercepted aircraft not to fall into a trail position (directly behind the helicopter) if instructed to follow the helicopter as the helicopter pilot may lose visual contact with the intercepted aircraft. Transition: Here is a video of the Helicopter’s signboard signaling device. We’ll also look at the other messages you may see.
  • The Visual Warning System (VWS) is an additional means for NORAD to warn aircraft that have strayed into, or pose a threat, to the national capital region. The VWS consists of a number of strategically placed ‘eye safe’ laser generators around the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA). If you are in the SFRA and are not complying with flight restrictions, you may see the green, red, red flashes of the VWS. Immediately turn away from the VWS and tune your radio to ATC or guard frequency. Contact ATC and identify yourself, your location and intentions. To get more information on the flight rules in the SFRA, use the link provided to access the FAA Washignton D.C. SFRA text. AOPA also has an interactive course available on it’s website. Transition: Next, let’s take a look at NORAD’s intercept aircraft.
  • For visual recognition, here are the intercept fighter aircraft NORAD uses to intercepting suspicious aircraft. Transition: NORAD has other systems to alert pilots in the Washington D.C. Special Fight Rules Area (SFRA). Let’s
  • Aviation Security is everyone’s business. This presentation should have given you a better understanding of the situations that may trigger NORAD to intercept an unknown, suspicious or non-compliant aircraft. It is your responsibility to understand and comply with flight rules and restrictions. Understanding and complying with the rules and restrictions will minimize the possibility of being intercepted. In case you are intercepted, it is important that you understand the procedures and comply with interceptor instructions.
  • Thank you for your attention. If you have feedback on this presentation please send us an email via the “Provide Feedback” link. Questions about NORAD may be addressed to NORAD Public Affairs, Peterson AFB, CO (719) 554-6889.
  • NORAD Intercept Operations, TFRs and You

    1. 1. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIED1North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)Intercept Operations,TFRs and YouLt Col Ray ‘Worf’ BonitaThis Briefing is UNCLASSIFIEDDate Mar 2012
    3. 3. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIED3Why Do I Care?• Incorrect or Misunderstood Procedures can result in:– FAA Pilot Deviation and/or loss of Pilot License– Putting crew and passengers in unsafe situation• This training will provide airmen an:– Understanding of why/when you may be intercepted– Understanding of interceptor actions– Understanding of intercepted aircraft proceduresAviation Security impacts every airman thatoperates within the National Airspace System
    4. 4. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIED4Who Does NORAD Intercept?• Unknown / Unauthorized aircraft crossing theAir Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)boundary• Unknown / Unauthorized aircraft crossing, orwithin, the Washington D.C. Special FlightRules Area (SFRA) or National SecurityTemporary Flight Restriction (TFR) boundary
    5. 5. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIED5Who Does NORAD Intercept?• Potential Threat to Civil Aviation- Passenger on No-fly list- Not in Radio Communication with AirTraffic Control (NORDO)- Off Flight Plan- Deviation from flight rules- In-flight disturbance- Deviation from assigned IFF Squawk(7500 for example)• Request from Federal Agency
    6. 6. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIED6Aircraft Contact Procedures• ATC, NORAD Air Defense Sector (ADS) orNORAD interceptors will attempt radiocontact as the primary means for contactinga suspicious aircraft– Assigned ATC frequency– VHF and UHF Guard frequency (121.5/243.0)• Other methods– Corporate Operations (ACARS, cell phone, etc)
    7. 7. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIED7Aircraft Contact and Divert• If radio contact is NOT establishedand fighters are directed tointercept and divert (“guide”)intercepted aircraft– Fighters conduct ICAO procedures– “Guide” procedures– “Headbutt” procedures• Used when non-compliant TOIthreatens restricted or prohibited area• Warning flares may be dispensedahead of the TOI (when authorized)
    8. 8. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIEDImportant Communications Note• ALL aircraft operating in US national airspace arehighly encouraged to maintain a listening watchon VHF/UHF Guard (121.5/243.0 Mhz). If subjectedto military intercept, it is incumbent on civilianaviators to understand their responsibilities andto comply with ICAO standard signals relayedfrom the intercepting aircraft. Specifically,aviators are expected to contact air traffic controlwithout delay (if able) on the local operatingfrequency or on VHF/UHF guard frequencies(121.5/243.5)• Noncompliance may result in the use of forceReference: FAA Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)8
    9. 9. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIEDICAO Intercept Procedure – Fighter Aircraft9As standard procedure, intercepted aircraft areapproached from the sternTypically, two fighters will be with you, even if youonly see oneFighter rocks wings to signal interceptSafe separation is the responsibility of the FightersFighter aircraft will only get as close as necessaryto complete the missionIntercept / Identification
    10. 10. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIEDAcknowledge Fighter verbally on guard frequency(121.5/243.0 MHz)Select Mode 3/A Code 7700, if ableAcknowledge Fighter with wing rock (if able)ICAO Intercept Procedure – Intercepted Aircraft10Intercept / IdentificationClick to play video clip“…This is the armed air defense fighter onyour left wing, you are ordered to…“Turn to heading XXX immediately to exitrestricted airspace.”
    11. 11. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIEDICAO Intercept Procedure – Intercepted aircraft11Post Intercept, “Follow me”Comply with Fighter (visual or verbal) directions- Fighter will set direction/headingContact ATC or Fighter- ATC Primary or Guard (121.5 MHz)Land where directedClick to play video clip
    12. 12. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIEDIntercept Procedure – Headbutt13Post Intercept, “Headbutt”Fighter may attempt communication viastandard ICAO signalsFighter may dispense flares directingimmediate compliance is requiredFailure to comply at this point is notrecommended…“If you do not follow these instructions,you may be fired upon.”Click to play video clip
    13. 13. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIEDIntercept Procedure - Helicopter14Helicopter may approach from any azimuthClose to inspect on left or right sideHelicopter rocks wings to signal interceptSafe separation is the responsibility of the HeloHelicopter will only get as close as necessary tocomplete the missionIntercept / Identification
    14. 14. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIEDIntercept Procedure - Helicopter15Click to play video clipPost Intercept, SignalingAcknowledge verbally on guardfrequency (121.5/243.0 MHz)Select Mode 3/A Code 7700, if ableAcknowledge with wing rock (if able)Helicopter Signaling DeviceComply with (visual or verbal) directionsLand where directed
    16. 16. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIED• “Visual Warning System (VWS)”– Depart SFRA by turning away from VWS– Contact ATC• Understand flight restrictions in SFRA– Link to FAA SFRA text17Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA)Click to play video clip
    17. 17. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIED18NORAD Fighter AircraftUSAF F-15 USAF F-16Canadian CF-18 USAF F-22
    18. 18. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIEDWhere to find information on TFR’s•••••• http://www.navcanada.ca19
    19. 19. UNCLASSIFIEDUNCLASSIFIED20Summary• Aviation Security is everyones business• Every airman should understand:– NOTAM / TFR info prior to flight– Why/when you may be intercepted– Interceptor actions– Intercepted procedures