American Forces Press Service

Changed Security Environment Drives Combat Air Patrol Changes

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2002 - A "vastly changed security environment" is behind proposed changes to the combat air patrols of Operation Noble Eagle, Defense Department officials said today.

"What we are looking at is a different mix of combat air patrols, strip alerts and those sorts of things that will change and adapt as circumstances change and adapt," said Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clark.

Clark stressed the plan is not yet finished, but defense officials were compelled to consider changes that have been put in place since the Sept. 11 attacks. She said the new federal Office of Homeland Security now coordinates many aspects of protection. This includes better security at airports and things like hardened cockpit doors.

"The overall picture is changing, and it is appropriate to take a look at the combat air patrol and say, 'What's appropriate at different times?'" she said.

North American Aerospace Defense Command officials said that since Sept. 11 pilots have flown more than 19,000 CAP sorties. There are 13,000 military personnel involved and 250 aircraft available on any day supporting this effort.

Defense officials said the cost of the combat air patrol program from Sept. 11 through the end of January was slightly over $500 million.

Joint Staff spokesman Brig. Gen. John Rosa said that since Sept. 11, the combat air patrol program has been a tiered effort -- that is, planes were flying missions, other planes were on strip alert, and others were at various levels of readiness. Defense officials "made it a point to never tell folks where we're going to be or when we're going to be there," he said. "It only makes common sense."

Rosa said that based on the security improvements, the department is proposing another tiered approach of combat air patrols, random patrols and strip alerts. "Exactly what those tiers are and where they are going to be and what's going to happen" are things that remain to be decided, he said.

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