The National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nuclear Emergency Support team was scheduled to take one of its radiation-sniffing Bell Helicopter Textron [TXT] 412 helicopters out for what figures to be one of the last pre-Super Bowl patrols before the fleet trades up to new models, the agency announced Monday.
The pregame, daytime-only flights in the vicinity of Los Angeles’ SoFi stadium, home of the Rams and site of this year’s big game, were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, the nuclear-weapons and nonproliferation agency wrote in a press release
As it usually does before big public events that present potential targets for bad actors armed with radioactive dispersal devices — often called dirty bombs — the helicopter will sweep a grid over downtown Los Angeles at altitude as low as 150 feet and at about 80 miles per hour, relative to the ground.
The aircraft’s measurements prior to the game and big public gatherings preceding it will create a map of background radiation against which weaponizable radioactive materials would stand out.
This year’s Super Bowl pits the American Football Conference champions, the Cincinnati Bengals, against the National Football Conference champions, the Los Angeles Rams, each of which were No. 4 seeds heading into the National Football League’s annual playoff.
For some trivia, there is a link, allowing for a few degrees of separation, between the Department of Energy nuclear-weapons enterprise and this year’s championship game. Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins is a former Oak Ridge Wildcat, according to local media. The team is from Oak Ridge High School, only a few miles north by road of the Oak Ridge Site and the Y-12 National Security Complex.
Once this year’s flights are finished, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nuclear Emergency Support Team will have patrolled for 12 consecutive Super Bowls.
Before long, the team plans to trade in its Bell helicopters for a new pair of aircraft supplied by the U.S. arm of Europe’s Leonardo. The agency announced last week that Leonardo had won a competition to provide the replacement rotary craft.