Russian, Canadian and American aircraft will join in the North American Aerospace defense Command’s Vigilant Eagle training exercise in Alaska and eastern Russia.
Leaders from the Peterson Air Force Base command and Russian officials are meeting in Ottawa this week to finalize details of the exercise. The plan is to have airmen from the three nations work together to defeat a simulated 9/11-style threat.
“Working in partnership with the civilian Federal Aviation Agency and its Russian counterpart, this year’s exercise will focus on national procedures for monitoring the situation and the cooperative hand-off of a hijacked aircraft from one nation to the other while exchanging air tracking information,” NORAD said in a news release. ” All players will focus on coordinating their response to the incident. The basic scenario involves a simulated foreign flagged carrier on an international flight seized by terrorists. In the exercise, the aircraft does not respond to communications but it does not deviate from the approved flight plan either.”
While relations between the White House and the Kremlin remain frosty, military exercises can break the ice. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, NORAD has worked to build its relations with Russia, the command’s primary Cold War foe.
The change doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns between the former rivals. It remains fairly common for NORAD fighters to intercept and escort Russian bombers in Alaskan air space — something that’s been going on for more than 50 years.