Attention, South Floridians: If you look high in the sky and see U.S. Air Force fighter jets intercepting or checking out suspicious aircraft Wednesday afternoon, it’s only a drill.
NORAD, the Pentagon’s Colorado headquarters perhaps best known for tracking Santa on Christmas Eve, just put out notice that its inspector general division will be evaluating pilots and other fighter jet teams from the Tampa area in northern Florida that, weather permitting, may include Homestead Air Reserve base — mostly at altitudes of 9,000 to 23,000 feet.
The timetable for the short-notice testing is between 1 and 3:30 p.m. according to NORAD, short for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
“People in the greater Homestead area may hear and/or see low-flying NORAD-controlled fighter jets in close proximity to another aircraft,” NORAD says. The other aircraft will be “taking on the role of an aircraft of interest.”
The U.S. military began conducting these kind of exercises throughout Canada and the United States in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
“In order to test responses, systems and equipment, NORAD continuously conducts exercises with a variety of scenarios, including airspace restriction violations, hijackings and responding to unknown aircraft,” the notice said. It reassured that all of its exercises “are carefully planned and closely controlled.”