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NORAD fighter drill today along Highway 50 corridor

April 11, 2017 Updated: April 11, 2017 at 10:47 am
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An airman assigned to the 140th Maintenance Squadron checks for a clear path before ushering F-16C. Aircraft from the 140th wing are expected to participate in Tuesday's exrcises. USAF photo by TSgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf]

Fighter jets will roar over Highway 50 Tuesday as the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs practices to intercept wayward planes above an area that runs from Pueblo to the Kansas state line.

The exercise is planned to start at 11 a.m. and run until 1 p.m. in the area as part of the command's ongoing Noble Eagle mission, which began after the 9/11 attacks when terrorists crashed hijacked planes into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Colorado residents between Granada and Pueblo may hear and/or see low-flying NORAD-controlled fighter jets in close proximity to civilian aircraft, which will be taking on the role of an aircraft of interest," the command said.

The bi-national command protects the airspace above the U.S. and Canada from enemy attacks and terrorist threats.

"In order to test responses, systems and equipment, NORAD continuously conducts exercises with a variety of scenarios, including airspace restriction violations, hijackings and responding to unknown aircraft," the command said in a news release. "All NORAD exercises are carefully planned and closely controlled."

From a command center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, NORAD leaders monitor flights around the continent with a special emphasis on flight restrictions meant to protect the U.S. president and government leaders.

Exercises in Colorado generally involve F-16 fighters from the Colorado National Guard's 140th Fighter Wing in Aurora.

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx