Civil Air Patrol (CAP) conducts a variety of operational missions in the areas of emergency services, including search-and-rescue (SAR), disaster relief (DR), counterdrug (CD), homeland security (HLS), official transportation, communications support and low-altitude route surveys. Most of these tasks are performed by CAP in its role as the United States Air Force Auxiliary.
CAP, in its Total Force role, operates a fleet of 550 aircraft and performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 78 lives annually. Its aircrews transport time-sensitive medical materials when other means of transportation (such as ambulances) are not practical or possible.
Additionally, CAP assists the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Drug Enforcement Administration, and United States Forest Service in the War on Drugs. In 2005, CAP flew over 12,000 hours in support of this mission and led these agencies to the confiscation of illegal substances valued at over $400 million.
Emergency Services Our emergency services legacy is one of tremendous pride to the organization and to our members. Senior members and cadets have saved thousands of lives since CAP’s founding, and continue to save about 80 lives per year. Cadets and senior members in CAP are able to participate in real life emergency services missions under the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center as well as other local, state, and national organizations and agencies. CAP members learn valuable field survival and searching skills. Through Emergency Services, CAP members save lives across the country. CAP members undergo rigorous training to perform safe and cost effective missions, serving as pilots, communicators, ground team members, and numerous other roles.
Search and Rescue (SAR) is what CAP became famous for after WW II. CAP performs over 90% of the SAR missions conducted in the continental US (as tasked by the Air Force). Today, because of advancements in technology, SAR accounts for about 15% of our real-world missions.
Disaster Relief (DR) is a growing portion of our missions encompassing both air and ground operations. Typical tasks include: airlift of vital supplies and personnel, aerial damage assessment (including live transmission of photos and video to government officials), ground damage assessment, evacuation and other tasks. Think about any major disaster seen on television (9/11, Deepwater Horizon, Hurricane Sandy, etc) and chances are we have supported the relief efforts.
Counterdrug Operations (CD) participation varies widely between wings but generally CAP flies thousands of hours a year nationwide in the hunt for illegal drugs. Missions include reconnaissance of border and coastal areas, reconnaissance of suspected areas of illegal crop growth and airlift of officials. CAP has no law enforcement authority and does not participate in direct law enforcement activities.
Homeland Security (HLS) missions have grown dramatically in the past decade. Typical tasks include reconnaissance of vital infrastructure (bridges, communication facilities, etc) and high-profile events (Olympics, national political conventions, shuttle launches, the Super Bowl), practice intercepts (we enter restricted air space and are intercepted by AF aircraft), US Navy ship escort and other activities.
CAP can also support local, state and federal government agencies. Missions are unique to each wing and participation varies. Tasks include: fire watch (looking for forest fires), sundown patrol (looking for stranded boaters), tracking endangered species, low level route reconnaissance (flying low level routes looking for obstructions), FAA equipment testing (such as radar and communications range and alignment), simulated light aircraft attack on military bases and providing a welcome home for troops.