At around the same time North Korea said it fired off a hypersonic weapon, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop order for air traffic operating in the Western U.S. and Hawaii.
This was likely no coincidence, according to The War Zone. Both the overall duration of North Korea’s missile test and the grounding and subsequent resumption of U.S. flights occurred along the same timeline, the publication reported.
The War Zone reported that multiple pilot reports and radio communications from that day mention a “national security issue” as the reason for the temporary ground stop.
According to the War Zone, just before 2:30 pm PST on Jan. 10, North Korea test-launched a hypersonic missile eastward towards Japan and the U.S. By no later than 2:32 pm PST, ground stop orders were issued for Anchorage, Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Air traffic control messaging acquired by The War Zone indicated that NORAD advised of a missile launch from North Korea impacting air space from the Aleutian Islands south to Los Angeles.
Sixteen minutes later, according to The War Zone, NORAD issued another advisory, this time indicating that the North Korean missile had splashed in the waters off the coast of Japan and that regular air traffic could resume.
Additionally, the War Zone reports that NORAD advised the FAA to clear airspace around Vandenberg Space Force Base just minutes before the initial ground stop order to pilots was issued.
Vandenberg Space Force Base is located less than 200 north of Los Angeles and has long been the site of U.S. ballistic missile testing and employment. Additionally, Vandenberg is the home of a limited amount of Ground-Based Midcourse Defense missiles capable of intercepting ICBMs.
Who issued the ground-stoppage and why remains a question.
The Defense Department deferred comment to U.S. Northern Command, which did not immediately respond to a Military Times query.
U.S. Strategic Command would not comment on the incident to the Drive, while NORAD denied having a role in the issuance of the ground-stop-order. Additionally, the FAA released a statement on the ground stop order which stopped short of a reason for the agency doing so. The FAA did not immediately respond to a Military Times request for comment.
This is a developing story. Stay with Military Times for updates.
James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as a US Marine infantryman in Iraq. Additionally, he has worked as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan.