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No-fly zone to reach Windsor Canadian, U.S. pilots will work together to patrol airspace around Super Bowl site

Canadian, U.S. pilots will work together to patrol airspace around Super Bowl site

With a report from Reuters

Fighter jets and spy planes will troll the skies over the Super Bowl looking for terrorists and hapless pilots who stumble into a no-fly zone straddling Windsor and Detroit on Sunday.

The no-fly zone will have a radius of 18.5 kilometres -- with Detroit's Ford Field and the National Football League game between the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers smack in the middle.

Dubbed Operation Noble Eagle, it will be a joint effort between Canadian and U.S. military forces under the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

Among the aircraft patrolling both sides of the border will be the mighty F-16 jets out of Michigan's Selfridge Air National Guard Base, and aircraft equipped with satellites to take pictures of the ground. Canada will pitch in some of its CF-18 fighter jets based out of Bagotville, Que.

"We want to tell the world that, 'Okay, we're going to be there and watching. Don't come close. Don't try anything stupid over the weekend,' " said Captain Daniel Belenger, who flies CF-18s for NORAD out of the Canadian Forces base in Bagotville.

For security reasons, both Canadian and U.S. officials are keeping mum about the number of planes that will take part, as well as their tactics. "You've seen movies, but it's pretty much the same thing," Capt. Belenger said.

Last week, Transport Canada issued a warning to all civilian pilots about the security measures.

While commercial and emergency flights will be allowed to fly in the patrolled airspace, civilian flights are banned within the no-fly zone, and will have to adhere to strict conditions in the area surrounding the football game.

Pilots are required to file a flight plan and be in radio contact with air traffic control at all times.

Those who do not, and wander unknowingly into the military no-fly zone, will get a surprise visit from a fighter jet.

"Once we know there is somebody in the airspace, we can go with the jet and intercept them and escort them out," said Canadian NORAD spokesperson Capt. Jennifer Faubert.

Windsor Airport is the only airport that will be caught in the no-fly zone. While commercial and emergency flights will be able to land as usual, about 40 charter planes will be grounded until midnight.

Security efforts for the Super Bowl include members of the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard and the RCMP. Including private security, more than 10,000 security personnel will be in place for the game.

State-of-the-art equipment, including bomb-detecting robots and gamma-ray inspection trucks that will scan suspicious vehicles, will also be part of the security effort this year.

"We will patrol the skies. The fact that there is a river that runs between Detroit and Windsor also is a potential terrorist threat," said Mike Kucharek, spokesman for NORAD and U.S. Northern Command from its headquarters in Colorado. U.S. Coast Guard gunboats can be seen patrolling the Detroit River.

If all goes according to plan, fans and revellers on both sides of the border will be oblivious to the entire exercise.

"If we are doing our job, nobody sees or hears a wink of this," Mr. Kucharek said.

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