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Exercise Tests D.C. Air Defense Capabilities

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2002 -- Exercise Clear Skies II kicks off here today to test air defense systems in the region, DoD officials said.

Pentagon officials emphasized Clear Skies II is an exercise and not an operation. The troops involved will not man live weapons. North American Aerospace Defense Command officials have planned the exercise for many weeks. The exercise ends Sept. 14.

Clear Skies II tests how NORAD, in conjunction with U.S. federal agencies, can put up and command a multilayered air defense system. Both ground and air assets are being used.

Pentagon officials said aircraft participating in the exercise include F-16s, Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft and other support aircraft.

Ground-based systems include Sentinel radars and Stinger and Avenger missile systems. These systems will be based at metro Washington area military installations.

Officials said around 300 people from NORAD, the armed services, the U.S. Customs Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Secret Service are taking part in the exercise.

Exercise Clear Skies I was held in early July, officials said. Around 30 people participated in the three-day exercise.

Clear Skies II is an expanded version of the exercise and will validate the procedures NORAD will use to defend the United States from an airborne attack.

NORAD officials said that other, possibly larger exercises would be held in the future.

The Washington area historically has had air defense capabilities. During World War II, the Army set up an anti- aircraft battery atop the Treasury Building. It was dismantled in 1944. Anti-aircraft missile batteries ringed the area from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s.

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