PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – North American Aerospace Defense Command launched four NORAD F-15 fighter jets and an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft that positively identified and remained poised to intercept Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers during the morning of December 12, 2018.
The Russian aircraft departed from Venezuela and were operating in the Caribbean Sea between Cuba and Mexico. The aircraft remained in international airspace and did not enter Canada’s or the United States’ sovereign airspace.
Defense of the homelands is NORAD’s top priority. NORAD defends our homelands by employing a layered defense network of radars, satellites, as well as fighter jets to identify and determine appropriate responses to aircraft. The identification and monitoring of aircraft entering a U.S. or Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone demonstrates how NORAD executes its aerospace warning and control missions for the United States and Canada 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“Deterring and defeating threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace,” said General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD Commander. “Our alert posture ensured we had NORAD aircraft airborne in the Gulf of Mexico to immediately intercept these aircraft in international airspace well before they could have entered our Air Defense Identification Zone. The Russian bombers were flying north towards the Gulf of Mexico, but they turned back south when our alert fighter aircraft closed to within 40 miles of their position.”
Operation NOBLE EAGLE is the name given to the military response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and applies to all air sovereignty and air defense missions in North America. NORAD is a binational command focused on the defense of both the U.S. and Canada. The response to potential aerospace threats does not distinguish between the two nations and draws on forces from both countries.