TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Florida — It’s the only non-offensive air operations center known as “America’s AOC.”
Nestled here at the base, the 601st AOC plans, directs and assesses air and space operations for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, and U.S. Northern Command.
With President Donald Trump’s continuous travel back and forth between Washington, D.C., and Mar-a-lago in Palm Beach — where Trump is set to host China’s president Xi Jinping in April — the skies, assessed around the clock, are getting a little more crowded.
The 601st does air defense “for the lower 48” states, explained Col. John Ferry, 601st Air Operations Center commander. Military.com got a sneak peek of the center on Feb. 27.
“You may have seen… the other day a couple jets go supersonic to go intercept … a civilian airplane violating the airspace we put around President Trump to sanitize him, we did that out of here,” he said.
Ferry was referring to a February incident in which a pair of F-15s, from Florida’s Homestead Air National Guard Base intercepted an unresponsive civilian aircraft near the Palm Beach. The civilian aircraft, which was non-threatening and didn’t have malicious intent, was unaware of the temporary flight restriction area — established by the Federal Aviation Administration and supported by the Air Force, he said.
The FAA and NORAD together put out statements ahead of time to warn civilian pilots about the restriction — but the message doesn’t always get across.
When the extra restrictions are in place, aircraft “have to be on a flight plan, you have to be talking” to the appropriate air traffic control as part of the TFR, Ferry said. Should they violate it, Air Force fighters will go up and assess the violation — either escorting the aircraft out of the TFR, or the inevitable.
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