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Profile: 1st Fighter Wing
1st Fighter Wing was a participant or observer in the following events:
The 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, receives notification from NORAD of an increased Information Operations Condition (Infocon) threat level. The message from NORAD directs the 1st Fighter Wing command post to upgrade the Infocon computer security level from Normal to Alpha. According to the wing’s own records, this is “the first message correspondence” the wing receives “to indicate that September 11th would not be an average day.” [1st Fighter Wing History Office, 12/2001] Steps to be taken under Infocon Alpha reportedly include “changing passwords, updating keys used to create classified communication lines, minimizing cell phone use, backing up important documents on hard drive, updating virus protection on home computers, reporting suspicious activity, and reviewing checklists.” [Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/3/2001]
Five Security Levels - The Infocon system provides a structured, coordinated approach for defending against and reacting to attacks on Defense Department systems and networks. It comprises five levels of threat, each with its own protective procedures. These levels go from Normal, through Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, up to Delta. [IAnewsletter, 12/2000 ; General Accounting Office, 3/29/2001 ] General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of both the US Space Command and NORAD, is responsible for evaluating the threat to military computers and issuing information conditions—“Infocons”—to the US military. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/3/2001] He is presumably therefore responsible for currently raising the Infocon level.
Threat Level Lowered on Previous Evening - The Infocon level was in fact lowered to Normal the previous evening, reportedly because of a reduced threat to US computer networks from hacker and virus attacks (see September 10, 2001). [1st Fighter Wing History Office, 12/2001] The 1st Fighter Wing is the “host unit” at Langley Air Force Base, which is about 130 miles from Washington, DC. It includes three fighter squadrons, which fly the F-15 Eagle fighter jet. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/20/2001; Langley Air Force Base, 11/2003; Air Force Print News, 11/9/2006]
Logo of the 1st Fighter Wing. [Source: US Air Force]The 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, notifies NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that it is unable to provide fighter jets to escort the president’s plane, Air Force One, because a lieutenant general at the Air Combat Command (ACC) has instructed the wing to stand by. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 239-240] The White House has requested a fighter escort for Air Force One (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), and officers at the headquarters of the Continental US NORAD Region in Florida have been calling around to find any available jets that might be able to provide that escort, irrespective of what branch of the military they belong to. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38; Spencer, 2008, pp. 239]
Wing Told to Stand By - As a result, a colonel from the 1st Fighter Wing now calls NEADS. He says that although his unit would love to help, the lieutenant general at ACC has told it to stand by, as, technically, the wing belongs to ACC, not NORAD. Author Lynn Spencer will comment, “In times of war, commanders can waive a significant amount of the military bureaucracy and make such decisions.” However, “they are assuming an enormous personal responsibility if they do so and something terribly wrong happens.” Personnel at NEADS are thus “reminded of the military bureaucracy governing orders and authorizations.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 239-240]
Wing's F-15s Take Off Following Attacks - F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing will take off later on—“within two hours” of the terrorist attacks, according to one account—to provide “protection for the National Command Authority and the rest of the nation’s civilian and military leadership,” and to patrol the skies of the East Coast. [Air Force Association, 10/2/2002; Langley Air Force Base, 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association, 3/14/2006] Eventually, fighters from Ellington Field in Texas and elsewhere will escort Air Force One (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Code One Magazine, 1/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 87]
ACC Is Air Force's Combat Arm - The ACC, which is headquartered at Langley Air Force Base, is the main combat arm of the US Air Force, and is responsible for supplying forces to regional military commanders around the world. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/20/2001; US Air Force, 2/26/2010] The 1st Fighter Wing is the “host unit” at Langley, and, as such, operates and maintains one of the largest fighter bases in the ACC. It includes three fighter squadrons, which fly the F-15 Eagle fighter jet. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/20/2001; Langley Air Force Base, 11/2003; Air Force Print News, 11/9/2006]
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