5-6-2. Interception Procedures

a. General.

1. Identification intercepts during peacetime operations are vastly different than those conducted under increased states of readiness. Unless otherwise directed by the control agency, intercepted aircraft will be identified by type only. When specific information is required (i.e. markings, serial numbers, etc.) the interceptor aircrew will respond only if the request can be conducted in a safe manner. During hours of darkness or Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), identification of unknown aircraft will be by type only. The interception pattern described below is the typical peacetime method used by air interceptor aircrews. In all situations, the interceptor aircrew will use caution to avoid startling the intercepted aircrew and/or passengers.

b. Intercept phases (See FIG 5-6-1).

1. Phase One- Approach Phase.
During peacetime, intercepted aircraft will be approached from the stern. Generally two interceptor aircraft will be employed to accomplish the identification. The flight leader and wingman will coordinate their individual positions in conjunction with the ground controlling agency. Their relationship will resemble a line abreast formation. At night or in IMC, a comfortable radar trail tactic will be used. Safe vertical separation between interceptor aircraft and unknown aircraft will be maintained at all times.

2. Phase Two- Identification Phase.
The intercepted aircraft should expect to visually acquire the lead interceptor and possibly the wingman during this phase in visual meteorological conditions (VMC). The wingman will assume a surveillance position while the flight leader approaches the unknown aircraft. Intercepted aircraft personnel may observe the use of different drag devices to allow for speed and position stabilization during this phase. The flight leader will then initiate a gentle closure toward the intercepted aircraft, stopping at a distance no closer than absolutely necessary to obtain the information needed. The interceptor aircraft will use every possible precaution to avoid startling intercepted aircrew or passengers. Additionally, the interceptor aircrews will constantly keep in mind that maneuvers considered normal to a fighter aircraft may be considered hazardous to passengers and crews of nonfighter aircraft. When interceptor aircrews know or believe that an unsafe condition exists, the identification phase will be terminated. As previously stated, during darkness or IMC identification of unknown aircraft will be by type only. Positive vertical separation will be maintained by interceptor aircraft throughout this phase.

3. Phase Three- Post Intercept Phase.
Upon identification phase completion, the flight leader will turn away from the intercepted aircraft. The wingman will remain well clear and accomplish a rejoin with the leader.

c. Communication interface between interceptor aircrews and the ground controlling agency is essential to ensure successful intercept completion. Flight Safety is paramount. An aircraft which is intercepted by another aircraft shall immediately:

1. Follow the instructions given by the intercepting aircraft, interpreting and responding to the visual signals.

2. Notify, if possible, the appropriate air traffic services unit.
FIG 5-6-1

Interception Procedures

3. Attempt to establish radio communication with the intercepting aircraft or with the appropriate intercept control unit, by making a general call on the emergency frequency 243.0 MHz and repeating this call on the emergency frequency 121.5 MHz, if practicable, giving the identity and position of the aircraft and the nature of the flight.

4. If equipped with SSR transponder, select MODE 3/A Code 7700, unless otherwise instructed by the appropriate air traffic services unit. If any instructions received by radio from any sources conflict with those given by the intercepting aircraft by visual or radio signals, the intercepted aircraft shall request immediate clarification while continuing to comply with the instructions given by the intercepting aircraft.

5-6-3. Law Enforcement Operations by Civil and Military Organizations

a. Special law enforcement operations.

1. Special law enforcement operations include in-flight identification, surveillance, interdiction, and pursuit activities performed in accordance with official civil and/or military mission responsibilities.

2. To facilitate accomplishment of these special missions, exemptions from specified sections of the CFR's have been granted to designated departments and agencies. However, it is each organization's responsibility to apprise ATC of their intent to operate under an authorized exemption before initiating actual operations.

3. Additionally, some departments and agencies that perform special missions have been assigned coded identifiers to permit them to apprise ATC of ongoing mission activities and solicit special air traffic assistance.

5-6-4. Interception Signals

TBL 5-6-1 and TBL 5-6-2.
TBL 5-6-1

Signals initiated by intercepting aircraft and
responses by intercepted aircraft
(as set forth in ICAO Annex 2-Appendix A, 2.1)

INTERCEPTING Aircraft Signals
INTERCEPTED Aircraft Responds

DAY-Rocking wings from a position slightly above and ahead of, and normally to the left of, the intercepted aircraft and, after acknowledgement, a slow level turn, normally to the left, on to the desired heading.

NIGHT-Same and, in addition, flashing navigational lights at irregular intervals.

NOTE 1-Meteorological conditions or terrain may require the intercepting aircraft to take up a position slightly above and ahead of, and to the right of, the intercepted aircraft and to make the subsequent turn to the right.

NOTE 2-If the intercepted aircraft is not able to keep pace with the intercepting aircraft, the latter is expected to fly a series of race-track patterns and to rock its wings each time it passes the intercepted aircraft.

You have been intercepted. Follow me.

DAY-Rocking wings and following.

NIGHT-Same and, in addition, flashing
navigational lights at irregular intervals.

DAY or NIGHT-Rocking aircraft, flashing navigational lights at irregular intervals and following.

Understood, will comply.


DAY or NIGHT-An abrupt break-away maneuver from the intercepted aircraft consisting of a climbing turn of 90 degrees or more without crossing the line of flight of the intercepted aircraft.

You may

DAY or NIGHT-Rocking wings.

DAY or NIGHT-Rocking aircraft.

Understood, will comply.


DAY-Circling aerodrome, lowering landing gear and overflying runway in direction of landing or, if the intercepted aircraft is a helicopter, overflying the helicopter landing area.

NIGHT-Same and, in addition, showing steady landing lights.

Land at this aerodrome.

DAY-Lowering landing gear, following the
intercepting aircraft and, if after overflying
the runway landing is considered safe, proceeding to land.

NIGHT-Same and, in addition, showing steady landing lights (if carried).

DAY or NIGHT-Following the intercepting
aircraft and proceeding to land, showing a steady landing light (if carried).

Understood, will comply.

TBL 5-6-2 has been corrected on this website and is not the same as the printed version.
TBL 5-6-2
Signals and Responses During Aircraft Intercept
Signals initiated by intercepted aircraft and
responses by intercepting aircraft
(as set forth in ICAO Annex 2-Appendix A, 2.2)

INTERCEPTED Aircraft Signals
INTERCEPTING Aircraft Responds

DAY or NIGHT-Raising landing gear (if fitted) and flashing landing lights while passing over runway in use or helicopter landing area at a height exceeding 300m (1,000 ft) but not exceeding 600m (2,000 ft) (in the case of a helicopter,  at a height exceeding 50m (170 ft) but not exceeding 100m (330 ft) above the aerodrome level, and continuing to circle runway in use or helicopter landing area. If unable to flash landing lights, flash any other lights available.

Aerodrome you have designated is inadequate.

DAY or NIGHT-If it is desired that the intercepted aircraft follow the intercepting aircraft to an alternate aerodrome, the intercepting aircraft raises its landing gear (if fitted) and uses the Series 1 signals prescribed for intercepting aircraft.

If it is decided to release the intercepted aircraft, the intercepting aircraft uses the Series 2 signals prescribed for intercepting aircraft.

Understood, follow me.

Understood, you may


DAY or NIGHT-Regular switching on and off of all available lights but in such a manner as to be distinct from flashing lights.

Cannot comply.

DAY or NIGHT-Use Series 2 signals prescribed for intercepting aircraft.



DAY or NIGHT-Irregular flashing of all available lights.

In distress.

DAY or NIGHT-Use Series 2 signals prescribed for intercepting aircraft.