MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
When the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams kicked off Super Bowl LIII, South Carolina Air National Guard F-16 fighter jets were securing the airspace above Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz stadium.
The SCANG’s Aerospace Control Alert unit sent jets airborne to support the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command by providing a presence in the air, enforcing a Temporary Flight Restriction area around the stadium.
Super Bowl LIII is considered a National Special Security Event and brings together numerous federal, state, county and local agencies who partner in the enforcement of Federal Aviation Administration’s Temporary Flight Restrictions. NORAD missions support various special security events such as this year’s Super Bowl, and are conducted in support of other federal agencies as part of a layered defense network and strategy.
Swamp Fox pilots from the 169th Fighter Wing played a pivotal role in that protection, providing aerial security over watch during the entire game.
“For us here in the South Carolina Air National Guard our particular role is with F-16 aircraft, maintenance crews and weapons personnel and we are sitting on alert to be able to take off at a moment’s notice, to be able to investigate tracks of interest that NORAD requires investigating,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Thorne, 169th Aerospace Control Alert commander. “We are a small part of a much larger team that is NORAD.”
Prior to the big game, the SCANG exercised multiple times with the Civil Air Patrol – South Carolina Wing and with air traffic controllers in Atlanta, Ga. During one of those exercises, the 169FW held a media day for national and local media to discuss how the Air National Guard, NORAD and other federal, state and local partners help secure large-scale events from airborne threats.
“As a member of the South Carolina Air National Guard, it was an honor to be selected to participate in NORAD’s mission, covering Super Bowl LIII and what it again shows is how vital the National Guard is to both defense of this republic and NORAD’s particular mission,” Thorne said.
Since May 2011 the South Carolina Air National has maintained its proficiency as an ACA-trained unit.
NORAD has conducted air patrols throughout the U.S. and Canada since the start of Operation Noble Eagle -- the command’s response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.