Training for the Worst Case

When Noble Eagle first started, there were military fighters over key American cites virtually around-the-clock. That soon changed, evolving today, said Keating, to a system in which fighters pop-up based on assessments NORAD planners make of intelligence data. “We want to be unpredictable; … we want the terrorists to know that we’re going to be responsive, we’re up there, and we’re ready,” explained Keating. He also noted that Noble Eagle aircrews have trained diligently to intercept hijacked civilian airliners—using both simulation and live-fly exercises with a contracted Lear jet as the airliner. “They go through all the motions literally in the cockpit, with live missiles, on a real live jet,” said Keating, adding that these aircrews know how to take out an airliner and “would do it if they had to.”