EAST GRANBY, Conn. — The 103rd Security Forces Squadron partnered with the Transportation Security Administration and Connecticut State Police to test Bradley Air National Guard Base’s response to a drone incursion Aug. 5.
With the increased prevalence of drone activity around the world, the 103rd developed an exercise scenario in which an unauthorized drone flies over and lands within the grounds of the base.
“Drones are an emerging hot threat topic for the Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Jessica Roy, 103rd Security Forces Squadron antiterrorism program manager and superintendent of intelligence and investigations. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when there is going to be activity. In the spirit of running an anti-terrorism program and being the focal point of force protection for the wing, when we see these emerging threats we try to get creative and think of ways to educate and prepare people for a response of that nature.”
Although many drone operators are hobbyists that cause no harm, the technology is increasingly being used in ways that present security concerns, said Roy.
“People use this technology to conduct counter-surveillance and test what a site’s response would be, and it’s very hands off for them because they could be far away but still monitoring response forces,” said Roy.
In the exercise scenario, Airmen identify the unauthorized drone and notify Security Forces. This notification initiates a joint response from base emergency response personnel and civilian law enforcement agencies, including TSA and Connecticut State Police units located at Bradley International Airport.
The 103rd leveraged existing relationships with the partner agencies to plan this exercise.
“We started working with the TSA because they were deemed the point of contact and responding agency for the state [for drone incidents],” said Roy. “They actually reached out and asked us for our knowledge related to small unmanned aircraft systems, or SUAS.”
This knowledge has made the 103rd an integral partner for drone response within the state.
“In Connecticut, TSA, CSP and the Air Guard are the primary members of a UAS rapid response team,” said Steve Blindbury, TSA’s Connecticut Assistant Federal Security Director for Law Enforcement. “The only way to ensure you are truly ready to respond to an UAS incursion to commercial air space is to participate in frequent exercises.”
In March, Roy and Lt. Col. William Deme, 103rd Security Forces Squadron commander, attended a similar exercise in which TSA helped test Connecticut State Police’s ability to locate and stop unauthorized drones from interfering with commercial aviation. It was at this event that Roy thought of conducting an exercise for the wing.
“I talked to the Connecticut State Police aviation unit about trying to run something here and they were on board and excited about it because they get value out of it as well,” said Roy. “With the help of TSA and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and wing leadership, we came up with this multi-agency antiterrorism exercise.”
Representatives from the Connecticut Intelligence Center Unit, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and 103rd Airlift Wing Inspector General’s office also attended the exercise.
Training with partner agencies helps provide realistic scenarios and promotes interagency cooperation, said Roy.
“I think it’s a huge win for the installation,” said Roy. We’ve worked really hard to build these relationships with these agencies, and we designed this exercise so they would get a benefit out of this too.”
With this first exercise iteration, the 103rd continues to develop innovative training opportunities to address emerging security threats and bolster the base’s readiness.
“The world outside our fence line is changing and threats are rapidly evolving–we have to be ready,” said Roy. “In the critical role that I am in, I want to do everything I can to ensure the safety of our personnel and prepare our Defenders to meet new challenges head-on. I hope that conceiving this new training scenario provided some realism and was a positive change of pace. I am excited to see what we come up with next.”