USA/Russia — NORAD, Russia Wrap up ‘Vigilant Eagle’

ANCHORAGE, Alas­ka, Aug. 11, 2010 — The sto­ry­line seemed to come straight from a Cold War sus­pense thriller, as North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand forces work­ing with their Russ­ian coun­ter­parts tracked a “hijacked” air­craft across the Pacif­ic Ocean, but this was no movie.

NORAD and the Rus­sia com­plet­ed the first joint exer­cise designed to estab­lish clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion process­es that would allow the two forces to work togeth­er dur­ing a real crisis. 

The three-day exer­cise, called “Vig­i­lant Eagle,” was an inter­na­tion­al air ter­ror­ism sce­nario con­duct­ed over the Pacif­ic Ocean con­sist­ing of forces from the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia respond­ing to the sim­u­lat­ed hijack­ing of a B‑757 en route to the Far East. NORAD’s plan­ning and exer­cise direc­torate sprear­head­ed the exercise. 

Ele­ments of the Trans­porta­tion Secu­ri­ty Administration’s oper­a­tions cen­ter, the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion, the Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency, the 611th Air and Space Oper­a­tions Group, the 176th Air Con­trol Squadron and the Alas­ka NORAD Region made up the U.S. half of the exer­cise, while the air force nav­i­ga­tion service’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions and radiotech direc­torate, office of spe­cial trans­la­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion oper­a­tions direc­torate and the nation­al antiter­ror­ism office made up the Russ­ian half. 

“What we are prac­tic­ing today is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­ce­dures between NORAD, plus U.S. civil­ian air traf­fic con­trol agen­cies and our Russ­ian coun­ter­parts so that we can pass on infor­ma­tion to them about air ter­ror­ism events to allow them to pos­ture their forces to respond in kind,” said Cana­di­an Forces Col. Todd Balfe, Alas­ka NORAD Region deputy commander. 

In the sce­nario pre­sent­ed by the exer­cise, a B‑757 jet­lin­er, sim­u­lat­ed by a Gulf­stream 4 jet, sig­naled to author­i­ties on the ground that it has been hijacked. NORAD F‑22s and an E‑3 Sen­try air­borne warn­ing and con­trol air­craft scram­bled in response and fol­lowed the track of inter­est across the Pacif­ic, hand­ing it off to Russ­ian fight­ers as it approached Russ­ian ter­ri­to­ry. On the sec­ond day of the exer­cise, it was done in reverse, with SU-27 fight­ers mak­ing the hand-off to F‑22s as the “hijacked” air­craft approached Alas­ka. Air Force Lt. Col. John Oberst, 176th ACS oper­a­tions offi­cer, said the very fact that NORAD and Russ­ian forces were work­ing togeth­er in this exer­cise made it a suc­cess. “This exer­cise is one mile­stone in work­ing togeth­er in oth­er future efforts,” he said. “Our folks are proud to be a part of such an impor­tant event and are pas­sion­ate about par­tak­ing in efforts to pro­tect our borders.” 

Russ­ian air force Col. Alexan­der Vasi­lyev, deputy direc­tor of secu­ri­ty and safe­ty, said that despite the fric­tion the two coun­tries have had in years past, it is impor­tant for them to work togeth­er to com­bat the dan­gers of air terrorism. 

“Ter­ror­ism is some­thing that affects all our coun­tries,” he said. “So it is very impor­tant that we work togeth­er to devel­op pro­ce­dures and bring the rela­tion­ship between our coun­tries clos­er togeth­er to unite our coun­tries in the fight against terrorism.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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