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By Maj. Chelsea Aspelund
176th Wing Public Affairs
The 176th Air Defense Squadron is integral to Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Region positive identification, tracking and routine intercept of Russian aircraft operating within the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
Across the U.S. and Canada, NORAD units track and positively identify foreign military aircraft that enter the ADIZ. They monitor foreign aircraft movements and as necessary, NORAD aircraft are launched to intercept them.
For the Alaska NORAD region, one such unit is the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Air Defense Squadron.
The 176th ADS maintains an integrated air picture using radar data that is fused with air traffic control feeds and datalink information from ground and airborne assets. This information is then utilized to create a common operating picture of the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Region and is viewed by higher headquarters like NORAD.
When four Russian aircraft entered and operated within the Alaska ADIZ on Feb. 13 and again approached the ADIZ on Feb. 14, a 176th ADS surveillance team, comprised of an air surveillance technician, a surveillance technician and an interface control technician used their radar scopes to detect and track the aircraft.
Surveillance data was validated with information from 176th ADS weapons and battle management teams and the 611th Air Operations Center to positively identify the aircraft.
When the decision to intercept the Russian aircraft was made by NORAD leadership, the weapons team, comprising of a senior director, a weapons technician and an air weapons officer/weapons director coordinated airspace release with the Federal Aviation Administration, verified radio frequencies for, and prepared their radar console displays to ensure radar and radio control of the aircraft assigned to the mission.
At any given time, ADS personnel monitor and communicate on mission radios, emergency management frequencies, satellite communications, chat windows and telephonic communications.
Demonstrating the integration of the total force, the weapons team seamlessly controlled NORAD’s F-16s Fighting Falcon and F35A Lightning fighters with 354th Fighter Wing, E-3 Sentry (Airborne Warning and Control System) with 3rd Wing and KC-135 Stratotankers of the 168th Wing based at Eielson AFB.
Embodying the National Guard motto of “always ready, always there,” the 176th ADS stands ready to ensure air sovereignty for the Alaskan NORAD region.