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The control of North American airspace is a primary mission for NORAD personnel. NORAD identifies, monitors, and tracks suspect air traffic approaching and traveling through North American Airspace.
NORAD ensures U.S. and Canadian aerospace control, to include air defense operations, through a network of alert fighters, tankers, airborne early warning aircraft, rotary wing air interceptors, and ground based air defense assets cued by interagency and defense radars.
By using this network of sensors, NORAD detects airborne objects approaching North America and conducts its air defense mission by tracking, identifying, and taking appropriate action. Appropriate action may include, but is not limited to, monitoring the track, scrambling fighters to intercept and identify the approaching aircraft, and/or escorting it through the air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
An Air Defense Identification Zone exists to facilitate the identification of all tracks detected entering, exiting or operating within this buffer zone of internationally recognized airspace surrounding North America.
AIR DEFENSE OPERATIONS
NORAD closely coordinates air defense activities with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NAV Canada, monitors those operations and responds to requests for assistance and emergency situations.
NORAD works with the FAA and NavCanada to enforce temporary flight restriction areas, often referred to as TFRs.
If a pilot unknowingly or intentionally enters a TFR in violation of FAA or NavCanada requirements and is not in communication with air traffic control, NORAD responds.
NORAD interceptors will safely and professionally attempt to gain compliance of a violating pilot and communicate a desired course of action. NORAD fighters or helicopters are typically used as a last resort and are often used because other attempts at communication have failed. NORAD efforts could include guiding the pilot out of the TFR or instructing them to land at the nearest suitable airfield.
Operation NOBLE EAGLE was initiated following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. While NORAD's mission has always been to protect the airspace of the U.S. and Canada, prior to 9/11 NORAD was primarily postured to look outward. Over the last two decades, NORAD's mission has changed to include a focus on threats that may originate within the U.S. and Canada, and the addition of a maritime warning mission.