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ANG to Play Defense at Super Bowl
Knight Ridder   |  January 31, 2008
When the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 3, members of the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing could have a prime view of the contest, though fans likely won't ever see them.

Flying in F-16 fighters thousands of feet above University of Phoenix Stadium, pilots from the unit based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base will patrol a no-fly zone that will be in effect during the NFL championship.

The goal on Super Bowl Sunday will be for the group to silently deter any potential threats during a game expected to draw more than 70,000 people to the Glendale stadium, said Lt. Col. Moon Milham, commander of the unit.

"If everything goes the way we planned it, we shouldn't even be noticed," Milham said.

The unit will provide security in conjunction with an effort led by the North American Aerospace Defense Command and federal, state and local police agencies, according to a news release.

During the game, only approved military, law enforcement and emergency medical flights will be permitted within a little more than two miles of the stadium.

The unit, known as the Alert Detachment, was selected for the security mission because it already executes a similar mission in the skies over Arizona -- responding to enemy threats at a moment's notice.

The unit has two F-16s loaded with fuel and weapons, parked just off D-M's runway next to a Cold War-era bunker in which the jet crew is stationed.

While there are F-16 units at Luke Air Force Base, just a few miles from the stadium, the base is used mainly as a training center.

"This is our day-to-day defense mission that we've been doing for the past seven years," said Milton, referring to a security mission launched by the National Guard immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

Milton had tickets to the Super Bowl when it was played in Tempe in 1996. He could have a good view of Sunday's game if the stadium's roof is open, but it likely will be closed.

While Sunday's patrols will be unseen by most, the initial launch of the security mission will bring plenty of noise to the Phoenix area.

On Friday morning, the unit will have a pair of F-16s fly at 2,000 feet throughout Phoenix and Southern Arizona.

The goal of the Friday flight is to demonstrate the F-16s' capability and deter potential threats, said Capt. Gabe Johnson, a 162nd Fighter Wing spokesman.

"We'll go around the city down low, just to let everybody know that we're on the job," Milham said.

Other security forces from Southern Arizona will provide security during the Super Bowl as well.

Above the stadium, U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft will circle the sky and give authorities a bird's-eye view of what's going on.

Customs pilots will intercept any threat from the air with Black Hawk helicopters and Citation jets based at D-M.

Also, Customs and Border Protection agents will patrol on the ground, using bomb-sniffing dogs and X-ray equipment to check incoming guests and supplies.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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