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National Security and Interception Procedures

5−6−13. Interception Procedures

a. General.

1. In conjunction with the FAA, Air Defense

Sectors monitor air traffic and could order an

intercept in the interest of national security or

defense. Intercepts during peacetime operations are

vastly different than those conducted under increased

states of readiness. The interceptors may be fighters

or rotary wing aircraft. The reasons for aircraft

intercept include, but are not limited to:

(a) Identify an aircraft;

(b) Track an aircraft;

(c) Inspect an aircraft;

(d) Divert an aircraft;

(e) Establish communications with an air-


2. When specific information is required (i.e.,

markings, serial numbers, etc.) the interceptor

pilot(s) will respond only if, in their judgment, the

request can be conducted in a safe manner. Intercept

procedures are described in some detail in the

paragraphs below. In all situations, the interceptor

pilot will consider safety of flight for all concerned

throughout the intercept procedure. The interceptor

pilot(s) will use caution to avoid startling the

intercepted crew or passengers and understand that

maneuvers considered normal for interceptor aircraft

may be considered hazardous to other aircraft.

3. All aircraft operating in US national airspace

are highly encouraged to maintain a listening watch

on VHF/UHF guard frequencies (121.5 or 243.0

MHz). If subjected to a military intercept, it is

incumbent on civilian aviators to understand their

responsibilities and to comply with ICAO standard

signals relayed from the intercepting aircraft.

Specifically, aviators are expected to contact air

traffic control without delay (if able) on the local

operating frequency or on VHF/UHF guard.

Noncompliance may result in the use of force.

b. Fighter intercept phases (See FIG 5−6−1).

1. Approach Phase.

As standard procedure, intercepted aircraft are

approached from behind. Typically, interceptor

aircraft will be employed in pairs, however, it is not

uncommon for a single aircraft to perform the

intercept operation. Safe separation between inter-

ceptors and intercepted aircraft is the responsibility of

the intercepting aircraft and will be maintained at all


2. Identification Phase.

Interceptor aircraft will initiate a controlled closure

toward the aircraft of interest, holding at a distance no

closer than deemed necessary to establish positive

identification and to gather the necessary informa-

tion. The interceptor may also fly past the intercepted

aircraft while gathering data at a distance considered

safe based on aircraft performance characteristics.

3. Post Intercept Phase.

An interceptor may attempt to establish communica-

tions via standard ICAO signals. In time-critical

situations where the interceptor is seeking an

immediate response from the intercepted aircraft or if

the intercepted aircraft remains non-compliant to

instruction, the interceptor pilot may initiate a divert

maneuver. In this maneuver, the interceptor flies

across the intercepted aircraft’s flight path (minimum

500 feet separation and commencing from slightly

below the intercepted aircraft altitude) in the general

direction the intercepted aircraft is expected to turn.

The interceptor will rock its wings (daytime) or flash

external lights/select afterburners (night) while

crossing the intercepted aircraft’s flight path. The

interceptor will roll out in the direction the

intercepted aircraft is expected to turn before

returning to verify the aircraft of interest is

complying. The intercepted aircraft is expected to

execute an immediate turn to the direction of the

intercepting aircraft. If the aircraft of interest does not

comply, the interceptor may conduct a second

climbing turn across the intercepted aircraft’s flight

path (minimum 500 feet separation and commencing

from slightly below the intercepted aircraft altitude)

while expending flares as a warning signal to the

intercepted aircraft to comply immediately and to

turn in the direction indicated and to leave the area.

The interceptor is responsible to maintain safe

separation during these and all intercept maneuvers.

Flight safety is paramount.


1. NORAD interceptors will take every precaution to

preclude the possibility of the intercepted aircraft

experiencing jet wash/wake turbulence; however, there is

a potential that this condition could be encountered.
2. During Night/IMC, the intercept will be from below
flight path.