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NEWS | Nov. 15, 2022

171st Air Refueling Wing participates in Operation Noble Defender

By Tech. Sgt. Bryan Hoover

The 171st Air Refueling Wing participated in the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Operation Noble Defender, an air defense operation off the northeastern coast of the United States, Oct. 25-27, 2022.

NORAD’s continental U.S. region led this iteration of OND, which incorporated military assets from CONR and the Canadian NORAD Region to exercise layered defense of North America.

The 171st launched a KC-135 aircraft to provide air-to-air refueling with two F-15 aircraft assigned to the Massachusetts Air National Guard, 104th Fighter Wing. The 171st arrived over the Atlantic Ocean to refuel the F-15s and provided about two-thirds of the total fuel capacity -- nearly 15,000 pounds -- of jet fuel before the fighters disconnected to continue their mission.

NORAD also launched two CF-18 aircraft assigned to the Royal Canadian Air Force, 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec, Canada and a KC-135 assigned to the Maine Air National Guard, 101st Air Refueling Wing. The 101st maintains aircraft with a drogue refueling basket attached. Drogues are utilized for refueling support with Navy, Marine and allied aircraft. This provided the aerial refueling needs the CF-18s require.

OND showcased the ability to launch multiple aircraft from various regions within NORAD’s jurisdiction at a moment’s notice and successfully deter a simulated threat against the United States and Canada.

NORAD routinely conducts training operations and exercises with various scenarios including simulated incoming cruise missiles, airspace restriction violations, and response to unknown aircraft. All NORAD operations are carefully planned and controlled.

Lt. Col. Brian Radford, a pilot assigned to the 147th Air Refueling Squadron, was the aircraft commander for the successful mission.

“The 171st's involvement (in OND) shows that our wing is ready to respond when needed at any moment’s notice,” Radford said. “The 171st is always prepared to answer the call whether it comes from Harrisburg, Washington, D.C., or NORAD.”

This multi-region integration demonstrates NORAD’s ability to deter advisories. Tactics utilized during OND include airspace restrictions, outpace threats, and demonstrating the ability to defend against an attack before it begins.

“NORAD provides continuous 360-degree defense of North America, so whether an airborne threat originates from within our borders or off our coasts, NORAD is always ready,” said Royal Canadian Air Force Maj. Gen. S.T. Boyle, CONR deputy commander. “This NOBLE DEFENDER iteration allows us to collaborate with our Canadian NORAD Region partners while demonstrating our capacity to defend the northeast coast of the United States from airborne threats.”

The 171st geographical location near Pittsburgh is a tactical advantage required for NORAD to successfully accomplish its primary mission.