by Ronnie Spangler
NORAD scrambled two F-16 fighter jets out of Luke Air Force base at 6:10 a.m. Sunday to intercept an ultralight aircraft that entered Arizona from Mexico. The ultralight aircraft was sighted on radar and by the Border Patrol's air patrol. Border Patrol personnel suspect the ultralight was carrying bundles of drugs, typically marijuana.
NORAD released the following statement, "Upon intercepting the aircraft, the F-16s shadowed the aircraft for 30 minutes until it turned and flew back into Mexico," the release states. "The F-16s returned to base."
According to Border Patrol personnel this is nothing new except, this is the first time NORAD has scrambled jets to intercept the violation of US air space along the southern Arizona border.
Using ultralights to deliver drugs is a common practice by Mexican drug cartels. The drug lords in Mexico know that the federal government will never use military personnel to shoot down this type of aircraft. In the past the Border Patrol has been successful in capturing the drugs and smugglers on the ground, once the drop has been made. On a couple of occasions the Air Border Patrol using Apache helicopters have been able to force these aircraft down and agents on the ground have apprehended the pilot and secured the drugs.
Incidents like this are common all along our border and it's becoming more and more frequent. While the Yuma Sector under Operation Streamline where this incident occurred makes it more difficult for the smugglers to get away, but it raises questions about just how serious Homeland Security under Secretary Napolitano takes encroachment of US airspace along our borders.
What if this had been a terrorist with a bomb strapped underneath the ultralight instead of drugs? I am certain the Air Force pilots were under strict rules of engagement and probably forbidden to fire upon the aircraft unless they were fired upon first. The Yuma Marine Air Base was closer than the Luke Air Base that is stationed in Phoenix. The Marines have both jets and helicopters that could have easily forced the ultralight to the ground and allowed Border Patrol Agents to find out if the bundles were in fact drugs or worse.
President Obama and Secretary Napolitano like to talk about Arizona and proclaim the border is "as safe now as it ever has been", but the facts do not support their claim. Incidents like this is another reason why terrorist have been successful bringing bombs on planes and into Times Square. It's only a matter of time before one comes into the US from Mexico.
You probably won't hear about this incident on the mainstream or national news media. It was mentioned by the local Tuscon news but again the ultralights crossing our border is not news, only the fact that NORAD scrambled 2 jets made it news worthy. My question and I'm sure it has to be on the minds of some Border Patrol Agents, what was the point? If you are not going to take action to stop the incursions why scramble the jets and waste the fuel. The Mexican cartels are laughing at us.