104th Fighter Wing stays ready to handle potential threats

Hampden County

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The latest provocation from North Korea has heightened fears that the isolationist nation may have the capability of launching a nuclear armed missile that could reach the East Coast of the United States.

Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield is home to the 104th Fighter Wing of F-15’s. The F-15’s are an advanced, swift and powerful jet capable a intercepting and shooting down an intercontinental ballistic missile.

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How exactly they would do that is classified, and so is the exact time it takes them to scramble the jets. But it’s fast; they say they are ready at a moment’s notice.

Barnes told 22News they drill for national emergencies every week and have to scramble for real about once a month. During an actual threat, Barnes would get a scramble notification from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.

“Definitely North Korea is one of the threats but they are one of many threats globally,” Flight Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Jeff Beckel told 22News. “In the 20 years that I have been flying the F-15, there have always been threats in the world that we’re ready for. We can’t focus our training and readiness on one specific threat we make sure we are ready for a multitude of threats around the world.”

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Lt. Col. Beckel told 22News that NORAD uses radar, satellites, fighter aircraft and ground operations to deal with threats in the air. He was part of the squadron that scrambled out of Otis during 9/11.

There is no evidence to suggest North Korea can actually load a nuclear tip onto a missile.

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