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NORAD, Russian Air Force make history with combined efforts
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- A Russian SU-27 fighter flies alongside Fencing 1220, the target of interest for Exercise Vigilant Eagle, Aug. 8. Vigilant Eagle was a cooperative exercise involving the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Russian Air Force. The exercise scenario created a situation that required both the Russian Air Force and NORAD to launch or divert fighter aircraft to investigate and follow a "hijacked" airliner. The exercise focused on shadowing and included the cooperative hand-off of the monitored aircraft between fighters of the participating nations. (Army photo/Maj. Michael Humphreys)
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NORAD, Russian Air Force make history in combined efforts

Posted 8/12/2010   Updated 8/12/2010 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross

8/12/2010 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- History was made this past week when U.S. and Canadian forces teamed up with Russian forces for a first-ever cooperative air defense exercise across an international boundary.

The Russian Federation Air Force, the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Alaskan NORAD Region conducted the air-defense exercise during the week of August 8-11, the planning stages for this exercise began in 2003.

"This is a very crawl to walk scenario where we're just trying to establish communication of phraseologies that we can both understand to initiate cooperation from this particular type of situation," said Lt. Col. John Oberst, 176th Air Control Squadron.

The scenario consisted of two international flights, one originating in Alaska and traveling to the Far East, Aug. 8, followed by one originating in the Far East and traveling to Alaska, Aug. 10.

A U.S. flagged commercial air carrier on an international flight, Fencing 1220, was simulated as being taken over by terrorists. The aircraft did not respond to communications with the Federal Aviation Aministration, creating a situation that required both the Russian Air Force and NORAD to launch or divert fighter air-craft to investigate and follow Fencing 1220, according to a press release from NORAD.

According to Colonel Oberst two F-22 Raptors and an E-3 Sentry were launched from Elmendorf to intercept and investigate the suspicious aircraft. Once the aircraft reached the international boundary, which is designated at BESAT a point out in the Bering Sea, the Russian Air Force took over.

The Russian Air Force launched four sets of fighters which consisted of the Su-27 Flankers and the MiG-31 along with an A-50 Mainstay, their version of our E-3 Sentry.

According to the release this combined exercise moved us forward in the development of cooperation between the Russian Federation Air Force and NORAD to cooperatively detect, track, identify, intercept and follow an aircraft as it proceeds across international boundaries.

"I think that in a current world where we face common threats, for example a terrorist type situation, this is something that both (nations) see as a common threat and it is something that is prudent to prepare for," said Colonel Oberst. "I think it is good for the military-to-military cooperation to be able to handle this and it's also the first very small step in trust building between the nations."

Colonel Oberst said he feels this exercise has went very well, and the communication with the Russians has been very professional. He also added that this has been nothing but positive and definitely something historical, in that it is the first time this has been accomplished.

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