NORAD Statement on VWS Testing

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The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, is conducting a series of tests through Jan. 20 of a ground-based low-intensity Visual Warning System in the National Capital Region.

The system being tested is intended to warn pilots who are violating the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) established by the FAA over Washington D.C. During the tests, citizens in the area may occasionally see beams of red and green lights in the sky during the hours of darkness.

VWS is a ground-based system that uses safety-tested low-level beams of alternating green and red laser lights to alert pilots that they are flying without approval in designated airspace. These visually conspicuous lights, distinct from other light signals currently used by FAA Air Traffic Control, are designed to provide a clear warning to pilots who enter the ADIZ without authorization and cannot be contacted on VHF voice radio by Air Traffic Control. The lights are so designed that illumination levels are eye-safe and non-hazardous at all ranges. Only aircraft that are unauthorized or unidentified and unresponsive would be visually warned.

This visual warning system being tested -- and when implemented (pending a Letter of Non-Objection from the FAA) -- is designed to prompt immediate action by the pilot to contact Air Traffic Control and exit the ADIZ. The employment of VWS would be accompanied by a Special Advisory Notice from the FAA describing the lights and prescribing action.

There is no correlation between the lasers being reported on by the news media as the VWS is only being tested in the National Capital Region. Please contact the FBI for information on the lasers being reported on in various states, as they are the lead agency investigating those reports.

Michael D. Kucharek
Chief of Media Relations
NORAD and Northern Command Public Affairs