NORAD Schedules Midnight Routine Air Defense Drills Over Washington D.C. Area

U.S. officials announced Sunday that routine air defense drills over the Washington D.C. area are expected to happen during the midnight hours this week.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) officials said in a news release that on February 14, between midnight and 2:30 a.m. EST in the National Capital Region, a live-fly air defense Falcon Virgo exercise, which the official website describes as an intercept and identification operation during airspace security events.

“The Defense of North America is NORAD’s top priority, and NORAD remains on alert around the clock, every day,” Lt. Gen. Kirk Pierce said. “It is an honor to serve our citizens.”

The announcement from NORAD comes amid national security concerns after U.S. officials shot down four objects over North America this month, including a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina and three similar objects in Alaska, Michigan, and Canada.

Aircraft participating in Tuesday morning’s exercise include U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets, U.S. Coast Guard MH-65D Dolphin helicopter, U.S. Army C-12 aircraft, and Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182T general aviation aircraft, the release noted.

Some portions of the exercise could involve aircraft flying at approximately 2,500 feet, low enough for residents in the area to witness.

NORAD officials created Falcon Virgo as part of Operation Noble Eagle after the terrorist attacks. September 11, 2001, which aims to protect North America from airspace threats.

“NORAD routinely conducts exercises with various scenarios, including airspace restriction violations, hijackings, and responses to unknown aircraft,” the release reads. “All NORAD exercises are carefully planned and closely controlled.”

The defense organization conducted similar routine exercises in Washington, D.C., in January 2021.

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