Air defense around Tampa increases ahead of Super Bowl LV

The Big Game

TAMPA (WFLA) – People who live near MacDill Air Force Base may hear some unfamiliar sounds this week.

A variety of aircraft, including F-15s and Blackhawk helicopters are part of the air defense security plan in and around Tampa for the Super Bowl.

Special Agent Ronald Hopper with the FBI says the agency isn’t aware of any specific threats but is helping provide information for state and local authorities.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about domestic terrorists. The warning reads in part:

“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.”

So far the FBI says they have no information about any specific plots by domestic terrorists against the Super Bowl.

“We treat both international and domestic terrorism equally here in the Tampa Division as we do throughout the FBI, throughout the United States and so we are constantly looking for it,” said Special Agent Hopper.

Above Tampa, Lt. Colonel Alex Edwards and members of the 125th Fighter Wing will be patrolling the skies in F-15s.

Edwards says civilian pilots who violate air space restrictions will first get several calls on their radio. If they do not change course, they may soon see an F-15 on their wing.

“Then what they expect to see is a fighter come alongside them in an attempt to get them to change their course, so within about 500 or so is what a civil aviator or pilot will expect to see alongside them trying to get them to change direction,” said Edwards.

Blackhawk Helicopters from the Department of Homeland Security will also be patrolling the skies over Tampa and around Raymond James Stadium.

“Safety is a priority, so we’ve got a comprehensive multi-layered approach with federal, state, and local agencies to provide for their enjoyment of the festivities without being concerned for their safety,” said Todd Gayle with the Department of Homeland Security.

This year there will also be tighter restrictions in place for drone operators.

“Starting today at the Tampa River Walk and within a two-mile radius of the River Walk, drones are prohibited through most of the coming week,” said Michael O’Harra with the FAA.

Drone operators can be fined up to $30,000 for violations. Private aviation pilots can lose their licenses or be placed in jail for violating air restrictions around Tampa that have been put into place for the Super Bowl.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

April 24 2021 08:00 am

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