WADS Partners with the FAA for Joint Technical Inspections in Arizona

  • Published
  • By Kimberly D. Burke, Western Air Defense Sector Public Affairs

The National Airspace System (NAS) Defense Program is a joint DOD and Federal Aviation Administration system program for the air defense of the continental United States. It consists of long and short-range surveillance radars and radios primarily operated and maintained by the FAA with the Western Air Defense Sector and Eastern Air Defense Sector as primary customers of the data.

The Western Air Defense Sector’s 225th Support Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is charged with completing Joint Technical Inspections (JTI) at these locations throughout the WADS area of responsibility which consists of locations primarily west of the Mississippi River. 

At the end of January, a 225th SPTS team of quality assurance (QA) evaluators inspected two sites in Arizona that provides radar and radio data supporting the WADS air defense mission in support of North American Aerospace Defense Command's, Operation NOBLE EAGLE. 

“The JTIs provide a credible quality control tool enhancing the readiness of the air defense sector’s ability to perform its homeland defense mission,” explained Bruce Robie, WADS Joint National Air Space System Planning Group manager who oversees the QA inspectors.

The JTIs provided a snapshot status of equipment operational availability and readiness at the time of the evaluation at Mt. Lemmon (TUS) Defense Program Facility, near Tucson, and Ajo (QQO) Defense Program Facility, on Childs Mountain near the U.S./Mexican border.

Robie explained that for JTIs, WADS partners with FAA technical evaluators and engineering experts to inspect and confirm readiness of defense facility equipment and validate maintenance practices at remote facilities throughout the continental United States.

During the inspections in Arizona, the joint USAF/FAA QA team reviewed over 300 key performance parameters that determine operational availability and readiness of the mission-supporting equipment. The radar at Ajo and radios at Ajo and Mt. Lemmon sites met the mission requirements.  The JTI program is managed by U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command Joint Program Office, First Air Force and the FAA National Airspace System Defense Programs and Technical Evaluation Program (QA).

JTIs occur monthly at remote defense facilities throughout the WADS/EADS area of responsibility, primarily at border and coastal sites.  “The success of Joint Technical Inspections also relies upon the expert inputs of WADS 225th SPTS Maintenance Operations Control Center (MOCC) controllers and 225th Air Defense Squadron schedulers,” explained Robie. “During the Arizona facility inspections, timely teamwork between these WADS work centers and the QA team in-field ensured required radar and radio availability aligned with the dynamic flow of real-world operations. This coordination was highlighted as critical to the completion and success of the JTIs.”

“The WADS QA team didn’t let challenging road conditions and weather affect their ability to keep the required radar and radio downtime schedule intact and also worked around real-world operations that required use of the radar and radios during the JTI,” explained Col. Rebecca Bissette, 225th Support Squadron commander. “The team also deconflicted adjacent site outage concerns and expedited restoral of the Defense Information System Agency network following return of the Ajo radar for operational use.”

WADS is one of two Air National Guard air defense sectors in the continental United States, under the command of NORAD. NORAD ensures U.S. and Canadian aerospace control through a network of alert fighters, tankers, airborne early warning aircraft, rotary wing air interceptors, and ground-based air defense assets cued by interagency and defense radars.