NORAD to test aircraft laser warning system this week around Washington, D.C. area

WASHINGTON, 17 May 2009. Officials of the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will test a ground-based laser warning system around the nation's capital this week that is designed to keep unauthorized aircraft pilots from violating restricted air space around the White House and other sensitive government buildings.

WASHINGTON, 17 May 2009. Officials of the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will test a ground-based laser warning system around the nation's capital this week that is designed to keep unauthorized aircraft pilots from violating restricted air space around the White House and other sensitive government buildings.

The two-day Falcon Virgo exercise May 19 and 20 will test the national capital region's Visual Warning System (VWS) -- a ground-based system that uses eye-safe military laser technology that emits low-level beams of light that are different from other FAA light signals.

Pilots who encounter these military lasers should turn away from the Washington area immediately and contact air traffic controllers by radio. The lasers are in a red, red, green sequence and appear as wide beams that are safe to the eye and are not overly distracting.

Pilots who ignore the laser warnings could be intercepted by military jet fighters and could be shot down if they do not turn away.

Exercise Falcon Virgo is designed to hone NORAD's intercept and identification operations, as well as test the VWS system and procedures. Air Force F-16 fighter jets will participate along with the Civil Air Patrol aircraft and Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopters.

Residents in the area can expect flights to occur Monday at midnight and continuing through the scheduled exercise hours, even if the weather is bad.

In the event of inclement weather, the May 19-20 exercise will continue regardless of the weather until all requirements are met.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, NORAD fighters have responded to more than 2,100 possible air threats in the United States and have flown more than 51,000 sorties with the support of Airborne Warning and Control System and air-to-air-refueling aircraft.

For more information on the Falcon Virgo exercises, Contact NORAD online at www.norad.mil.

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