Civil Air Patrol
Provides Simulated "Threat" For NORAD Pilots
By Angela Pope
October 16, 2011 - Pilots assigned to Aerospace Control
Alert units have a unique mission to defend the U.S. and
Canadian homelands by controlling that airspace and
being prepared to respond to threats.
Because of that enormous responsibility, these units
routinely train for this mission. And since the aircraft
they would be charged with intercepting aren't fighter
jets, ACA pilots rely on more realistic "adversaries" to
Enter the volunteer force of the Civil Air Patrol and their fleet of small aircraft. Throughout the year, CAP wings across the country take to the skies during unit training exercises as "tracks of interest" to give the alert pilots a chance to practice scrambling and intercepting aircraft in a safe, controlled environment.
the Air Force Auxiliary, is part of the high-fidelity training
that ensures the United States Air Force is ready and able to
execute the ACA mission around the clock and continue a vigilant
watch," said Mark OBrien, CAP-USAF liaison to 1st Air Force.
"The training the ACA units get from these exercises is crucial,
and it's training they can't get unless they actually go up in
the air and fly against small, general aviation aircraft."
Air Force ACA pilots, CAP trains with agencies such as the U.S.
Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, depending on the
region of the country and the needs inherent to that region.
has planned and flown at least 25 of these missions, has seen
the teamwork involved and the resulting benefits.
At the same time, Air National Guard F-16s were busy intercepting a jet flying over the Detroit River. Nearby, a KC-135 orbited the area, ready to provide fuel to the participating aircraft, and somewhere above it all, an E-3 AWACS plane monitored the exercise.
"As a pilot, that
made me feel pretty cool," Burke said. "A lot of pilots never even see
those aircraft at an airshow, let alone get to participate in a mission
"As a CAP officer,
that made me feel pretty cool," Burke said. "That was confirmation that
everything we were doing was critical. We are directly contributing to
the safety and security of our nation."
For the alert
pilots, this training is invaluable. "The relationship Barnes Air
National Guard Base has with the Massachusetts CAP Wing is a strong one.
There are multiple benefits of this relationship and this training. One
of the top benefits is valid threat replication," said Capt. Osme
Benedict, a fighter pilot with the 104th Fighter Wing of the
Massachusetts Air National Guard. "It is always a challenge to find
them. CAP carries out a set of special instructions designed to train
our pilots on intercepting, inspecting and guiding suspect aircraft."
Without CAP, the
fighter pilots would have to improvise to simulate the threat.
Because of the CAP
training, Benedict said he feels more confident in his ability to
respond to a track of interest.
In delivering this
crucial training, CAP participates in more than 200 air defense training
exercises a year, totaling more than 1,900 flying hours at the bargain
price of $135 an hour.
That $7,000 per
hour equals out to approximately $13.3 million for an average year of
training, making CAP the more fiscally responsible choice with a price
tag just north of $250,000 a year.
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