Operation Coronet Nighthawk
Fom Oregon to Massachusetts, the 10 fighter units in 1st Air Force perform the air sovereignty mission 24 hours a day. In the 1990s, ANG units have taken part in numerous operations, including Coronet Nighthawk and Coronet Oak in Latin America.
Operation Coronet Nighthawk is the deployment of Air Defense Intercepter fighters in support of the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command, and under the direction of Joint Interagency Task Force-East. Flying from Howard Air Force Base, Panama, F-15s/16s intercept, shadow and identify suspected narco-traffickers' aircraft. Since September 1994, the interceptors have been credited with over 33,000 metric tons of cocaine being disrupted or seized.
Air National Guard squadrons rotated through Coronet Nighthawk as part of the effort to detect and monitor illegal drug traffic between South America and the United States. They stood alert and were on-call 24 hours-a-day to go and verify aircraft and determine whether or not they are suspicious. Making drug smugglers avoid a territory raises their cost of doing business and denies them one avenue of importing drugs into the United States. And those who do choose to use the central air route are likely to be greeted by law enforcement agencies once they reach the United States. The information pilots gathered ultimately went to organizations like the Customs Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency. If the aircraft continued into American air space, the civilian law enforcement agencies often could detain and search the suspicious aircraft based on the Coronet Nighthawk information.
Since 1991 Texas Air Guard's 111th Fighter Squadron took on the Coronet Nighthawk mission for six weeks each summer. In November 1997 the The New Jersey Air National Guard 177th Fighter Wing (FW), located at the Atlantic City International Airport in Pomona NJ, participated in Coronet Nighthawk, with a deployment to Howard Air Force Base, Panama. Two of the wing's F-16 aircraft and 53 unit members took part in the defense of the southern United States helping prevent unauthorized or unidentified aircraft from violating United States airspace. The 177th also helped stop the flow of illegal drugs into the country by intercepting and identifying suspicious aircraft. From December 28 to February 7, 1998, the Vermont Air National Guard 158th Fighter Wing deployed and operated in support of operation "Coronet Nighthawk". Over 150 guardsmen and 6 F-16s were deployed to Howard AFB in Panama.
Coronet Nighthawk took care of just about every unit in 1st Air Force as they rotated in and out of Panama. Some air defense squadrons who supported Coronet Nighthawk operations in Panama begin honing their night operational skills two to three months in advance of the actual deployment. These air defense squadrons could do this because their deployment dates were known at least one year in advance.
Sources and Methods
- "Hooligans" to close-out counter-drug mission from Panama : 15 Apr 1999 (AFPN) -- The North Dakota Air National Guard's 119th Fighter Wing "Happy Hooligans" will begin deploying to Howard Air Force Base, Panama, to participate in what will be the last scheduled U. S. military mission to the Republic of Panama, to support Operation Coronet Nighthawk. Coronet Nighthawk is scheduled to suspend operations from Howard April 30. With the suspension of Coronet Nighthawk at Howard, the last on-going U.S. military mission in Panama comes to an end. The mission will resume from another location.
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