WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – At a moment’s notice fighter jet pilots of the 104th Air Wing are prepared to defend the skies over New England.
“Having the fighter pilots right out of Barnes makes you feel secure. I hear them all the time because I live over on Holyoke Road, but it doesn’t bother me at all because I know they are protecting our freedom,” Gary Parker, from Westfield, told 22News about the jets flying through.
And to ensure they keep those skills sharp, the pilots were put on an extra alert Wednesday for a practice scramble drill.
The pilots flew F-15 jets in a Homeland Defense Exercise that’s meant to ensure that the state’s Air National Guard is ready and prepared to defend the airspace over the northeast.
The local Civil Air Patrol plays a key role to this mission. They fly small planes somewhere in the Northwest region of New England to act as a kind of mock airborne threat.
Once in the air, fighter jet pilots of the 104th Air Wing try to zero in on the simulated threat as they would if the threat were real.
“Our goal is to get in the air as fast as possible and intercept the threat to both provide intelligence to the forces on the ground that need the information and ultimately if we had to we could shoot the airborne threat down,” Major Andy Jacob, fighter jet pilot for the 104th Air Wing, said.
Major Jacob, also told 22News these practices are intentionally done and with little warning, but are a critical part of their training regiment.
Alert drills similar to Wednesday’s happen at National Guard bases all across the country.