On September 11, 2001, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was involved in an ongoing operation which involved deploying fighter aircraft to northwestern North America. The U.S. Military and NORAD had also planned to conduct several military exercises and a drill was being held by the National Reconnaissance Office, a Department of Defense agency. The operations, exercises and drills were all canceled following the September 11 attacks.
Operation Northern Vigilance, was a NORAD operation which involved deploying fighter aircraft to locations in Alaska and Northern Canada.The operation was a response to a Russian exercise, in which long-range bombers were dispatched to Russia's high north. The operation was one part simulation, one part real world. It was immediately called off after NORAD received word from NEADS that the Federal Aviation Administration had evidence of a hijacking. All simulated information (so-called "injects") were purged from computer screens at NORAD headquarters in Colorado. On receiving news of the attacks, the Russians promptly canceled their exercise as well.
The military exercises (war games) planned for September 11, 2001, included:
Aside from military exercises, a National Reconnaissance Office drill was being conducted on September 11, 2001. In a simulated event, a small aircraft would crash into one of the towers of the agency's headquarters after experiencing a mechanical failure. The NRO is the branch of the Department of Defense in charge of spy satellites. According to its spokesman Art Haubold: "No actual plane was to be involved -- to simulate the damage from the crash, some stairwells and exits were to be closed off, forcing employees to find other ways to evacuate the building." He further explained: "It was just an incredible coincidence that this happened to involve an aircraft crashing into our facility, as soon as the real world events began, we canceled the exercise." Most of the agency's personnel were sent home after the attacks.
On September 12, 2001, there was due to take place the second part of an exercise known as Operation Tripod, set up to "test the plan to distribute antibiotics to the entire city population during a bioterrorism attack".Richard Sheirer, director of the New York City Mayor's Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM), had hired "over 1,000 Police Academy cadets and Fire Department trainees to play terrified civilians afflicted with various medical conditions, allergies, and panic attacks." Various individuals were invited to watch, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the police and fire commissioners, and representatives of the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Pier 92 was set up as a model distribution station where the "victims" of the mock attack who needed to receive antibiotics would be treated. The exercise was a follow-up to a previous training exercise in New York, called RED Ex, which took place on May 21, 2001. According to the MTI Report Saving City Lifelines: Lessons Learned in the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks, "September 11 was going to be a busy day at the OEM. Staff members arrived early to prepare for Operation Tripod."
When the September 11, 2001, attacks began, Operation Tripod was immediately canceled as attentions turned to the real ongoing emergency. Because Pier 92 had been set up ready for the exercise, NYC OEM staff were able to move there and quickly convert it into a large emergency operations center when their original command center (in WTC Building 7) was evacuated and later destroyed. Thus, within 31 hours of the attacks, NYC OEM had a functional facility able to manage the search and rescue effort, just four miles north-northwest of the WTC site.The exercise was later rescheduled and took place on May 22, 2002.
North American Aerospace Defense Command, known until March 1981 as the North American Air Defense Command, is a combined organization of the United States and Canada that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and protection for Northern America. Headquarters for NORAD and the NORAD/United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) center are located at Peterson Space Force Base in El Paso County, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The nearby Cheyenne Mountain Complex has the Alternate Command Center. The NORAD commander and deputy commander (CINCNORAD) are, respectively, a United States four-star general or equivalent and a Canadian three-star general or equivalent.
The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a Space Force installation and defensive bunker located in unincorporated El Paso County, Colorado, next to the city of Colorado Springs, at the Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station, which hosts the activities of several tenant units. Also located in Colorado Springs is Peterson Space Force Base, where the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) headquarters are now located.
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