Fighter jets from the joint US and Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Russian Air Force are set to take part Tuesday in operation "Vigilant Eagle 2013.” The exercise is aimed at improving cooperation and response to a hijacking involving commercial aircraft, according to NORAD.
"It is one of the biggest single areas where the Russian Federation, US and Canada can truly cooperate,” Joseph Bonnet, director of joint training and exercises for NORAD and US Northern Command, said in an interview with the American Forces Press Service, a US Department of Defense (DOD) media service.
"All three countries share a common objective in thwarting, combating and cooperating against terrorism,” Bonnet said.
The exercise involves flying two aircraft simulating hijacked commercial airliners, one from Anchorage, Alaska traveling over Russian airspace on Tuesday and another on Wednesday flying from Anadyr, Russia over US airspace.
The military exercise started on Monday with the testing of command centers in Russia and the United States, but the simulated flights will be conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday and the complete exercise is scheduled to run through Friday.
In the scenario, when the simulated hijacked commercial airliners fail to respond to communications, NORAD and the Russian Air Force launch fighter jets to investigate and follow the suspect flights headed toward each other’s airspace, where they will then hand off the missions to complete, the DOD article said.
The fighter jets – Canadian CF-18 Hornets and Russian Sukhois – will also conduct air-to-air refueling operations, it added.
Vigilant Eagle 2013 is the third cooperative air defense exercise between NORAD and the Russian Air Force, based on a 2003 agreement between the two countries to strengthen their military relationship, according to the DOD.
"This is the culmination of everything that has gone on in previous exercises, and we expect it to continue to mature,” Bonnet said.