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Profile: Operation Southern Watch

Operation Southern Watch was a participant or observer in the following events:

About 100 members of the 174th Fighter Wing, part of the New York Air National Guard, are deployed to Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, to patrol the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, as part of the ongoing Operation Southern Watch. This is the unit’s second deployment there, its first having been in March 2001. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/11/2001; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001; US Congress, 3/1/2005; 174th Fighter Wing, 12/9/2005] The 174th FW is located at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, five miles north of Syracuse, in Central New York State. It is currently equipped with 17 F-16 fighters. These are kept in a six-bay shelter where they are, reportedly, “ready to fly in any weather, at a moment’s notice.” [Airman, 1/2001; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/25/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/26/2005] However, Hancock Field is not one of NORAD’s two “alert” sites in the northeast US. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The unit has 350 full-time staff and 650 part-timers, who work one weekend each month plus two full weeks a year. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/25/2001; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 10/24/2001] The 100 members of the unit who go to Saudi Arabia are due to arrive back at Hancock Field at around 3 p.m. on 9/11, but as a consequence of the day’s events are diverted to Canada. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/14/2001] They will eventually arrive back at the base on September 14. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/15/2001] In the months after 9/11, 174th FW fighters are involved in flying combat air patrols over New York City. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 12/8/2001; New York State, 3/26/2003]

Entity Tags: Operation Southern Watch, New York Air National Guard, 174th Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch.F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch. [Source: Jack Braden / United States Air Force]At the time of the 9/11 attacks, the 94th Fighter Squadron, which is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, is away on a 90-day combat deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch, to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Two days before 9/11, on September 9, the 27th Fighter Squadron, which is also stationed at Langley AFB, returns from Saudi Arabia, where it has been performing the same mission. [BBC, 12/29/1998; Air Force Association, 10/2/2002; 1st Fighter Association, 2003] The 94th and 27th Fighter Squadrons are two of the three F-15 fighter squadrons that are part of the 1st Fighter Wing, which is the “host unit” at Langley AFB. The third of these is the 71st Fighter Squadron. Between them, the three squadrons have 54 “primary assigned” F-15C fighter jets. [Langley Air Force Base, 11/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org), 2/12/2006] On September 11, most of the F-15s of the 71st FS are also away from base, for the Red Flag exercise in Nevada (see (Late August-September 17, 2001)). [Virginian-Pilot, 9/24/2001; Langley Air Force Base, 9/15/2006]
Langley Jets Not Part of NORAD Alert Unit - Langley Air Force Base, which is 130 miles south of the Pentagon, is one of two “alert sites” that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) can call upon to get jets quickly launched. However, the F-15s of the 1st Fighter Wing are not involved in this mission. Instead, that task belongs to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which has a small detachment at Langley AFB and keeps two fighter jets there ready to take off when required. [USA Today, 9/16/2001; Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Spencer, 2008, pp. 114] Despite not being part of the NORAD alert unit, aircraft from the 1st Fighter Wing are involved in the military response to the 9/11 attacks. Jets belonging to the 27th FS are airborne within two hours of the attacks, “providing protection for the National Command Authority and the rest of the nation’s civilian and military leadership.” [Air Force Association, 10/2/2002] And F-15s belonging to the 71st FS are launched from Langley AFB following the attacks, to patrol the skies of the East Coast. [Langley Air Force Base, 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association, 3/14/2006]
Possible Effect on 9/11 Response - Whether the deployment of the 94th Fighter Squadron to Saudi Arabia diminishes Langley AFB’s ability to respond on 9/11 is unknown. However, Air Force units are cycled through deployments like Operation Southern Watch by the Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) Center, which is at Langley Air Force Base. And according to NORAD Commander Larry Arnold, “Prior to Sept. 11, we’d been unsuccessful in getting the AEF Center to be responsible for relieving our air defense units when they went overseas.” [Air Force Print News, 6/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 12/21/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 99]

Entity Tags: 71st Fighter Squadron, 94th Fighter Squadron, Operation Southern Watch, Larry Arnold, 27th Fighter Squadron, Langley Air Force Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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