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NEWS | Jan. 18, 2022

Arizona National Guard participates in air defense exercise

By Maj. Angela Walz, 162nd Wing

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – Arizona National Guard Airmen assigned to Detachment 2, 162nd Wing, participated in the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) exercise Felix Hawk over Southern Arizona Jan. 18.

The exercise tests WADS’ intercept and identification procedures for a variety of scenarios involving possible hostile aircraft. 

Residents in Southern Arizona may observe additional F-16 flights. The exercise also includes the Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center, Tucson Terminal Radar Approach Control, other Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facilities in the region, and Arizona Civil Air Patrol Cessna aircraft. The training flights are coordinated with the FAA and the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command Region.

“This exercise is a great way to test our preparedness for any threat to U.S. airspace sovereignty,” said Lt. Col. Frank Lusher, Detachment 2 commander. “We train in these scenarios often, but it’s important to understand and value any experience that gives us more insight into the unique operational capabilities and limitations of our aircraft, our partners, and our adversaries in the airspace defense arena.”

These exercises are planned and controlled to ensure WADS’s rapid response capability. WADS has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout the western region since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“This exercise ensures that we are able to answer our nation’s call at any moment,” said Maj. Robert Barlow, Detachment 2 director of operations. “It allows our team to practice and gain more experience performing their challenging jobs. It is also an exercise in teamwork, not only for our team here but for all of the participants. Our team is always at the top of their game and exercises like Felix Hawk push them to be even better.”

WADS and its eastern counterpart - Eastern Air Defense Sector in Rome, N.Y., are part of the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region. CONR, as the continental United States geographical component of the bi-national command NORAD, provides airspace surveillance and control and directs air sovereignty activities for the CONUS region. CONR and its assigned Air Force assets throughout the country ensure air safety and security against potential air threats.

Felix Hawk is a recurring exercise supporting Operation Noble Eagle, emphasizing airspace control over Canada and the United States. The defense of North America is NORAD’s top priority.

For more than 60 years, NORAD has identified and intercepted potential air threats to North America through the execution of the command’s aerospace warning and aerospace control missions. NORAD also watches over Canadian and U.S. internal waterways and maritime approaches under its maritime warning mission.