Fighter jets from the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard are in skies above the area today as part of a controlled training mission. Officials said they don’t want people to be alarmed if they see the activity, which they admit can make people nervous. (Photo submitted)
Union County residents who saw fighter jets in the area today should not be alarmed.
“It is part of a controlled training mission,” said Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker, with the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard.
Holliker said fighter jets from the 180th Fighter Wing will be conducting a test of the Aerospace Control Alert system this morning.
She said the alert system is about “maintaining air sovereignty and air defense through the surveillance and control of airspace over Canada and the U.S.”
Officials from the 180th Fighter Wing have said Aerospace Control Alert, 24/7/365, is “the nation’s number one homeland defense mission.”
Holliker explained that during today’s training exercise around Marysville, as well as Dayton, Middleton and Springfield, Civil Air Patrol aircraft simulate a potential threat. The Aerospace Control Alert system identifies the aircraft and Ohio Air National Guard fighter jets then locate the plane and work to ground it.
Holliker said residents who see the drill can sometimes see the jets flying much lower than usual and circling and flying very close to a small, civilian plane.
“It can be a little nerve wracking if you don’t know what’s happening,” Holliker said.
She noted that residents close to the airbase in Swanton, near Toledo, are used to seeing the jets, but said for civilians in areas that do not typically see the fighter jets, it can “make people nervous” when they see the planes flying so low.
Officials said the exercise improves coordination between the Eastern Air Defense Sector, Federal Aviation Administration and 180th Fighter Wing.
Holliker said exercises like this morning’s “are conducted on a routine basis.” She said they are part of North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Operation Noble Eagle, which was initiated after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“The goal here is preventing another 9/11 scenario,” Holliker said. “We need to train for a scenario like this to prevent another 9/11 type event. We were not prepared for 9/11. We were focused outside the country. We were not looking inside.”
Holliker said the goal of training is to never need it.
“It’s a good day when we don’t have to fly. We always hope we don’t need to,” Holliker said. “But when we are not flying, we continue to train.”
The 180th Fighter Wing is the only F-16 fighter wing in the state of Ohio and leaders stress that they want it to be “the most lethal, innovative and efficient Fighter Wing in the total force.”
The group’s mission is “to provide for America; protection of the homeland, effective combat power and defense support to civil authorities, while developing airmen, supporting their families and serving in our community.”
Officials said that with 60% of the U.S. population lying within a 600 mile radius of Toledo, maintaining the Aerospace Control Alert is a “critical mission.” They added that it “consistently proves to be an essential, long-term solution for the defense of our nation.”