U.S., Russia, Canada partner in Joint Exercise Vigilant Eagle

Senior military leaders from the North American Aerospace Defense Command and Russian Federation said they are ready to take lessons learned from Joint Exercise Vigilant Eagle to make next year’s exercise even more challenging.

The exercise was held from Aug. 26 to Aug. 28 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, which required the U.S., Canadian and Russian forces to detect, track, identify and follow simulated aircraft hijackings across international borders. The exercise marked first time Canadian fighter jets participated, bringing CF-18 Hornets alongside Su-27 Russian aircrafts to follow and intercept the hijacked aircraft.

Vigilant Eagle also delivered a visual fighter-to-fighter handoff of escort responsibilities in a live-fly scenario as the tracked aircraft moved from one country’s airspace to another’s.

“At no time in the past did we exercise having the Russian, Canadian or American fighters all joining up together to have a positive handoff of escort responsibility on a track of interest,” said Canadian Maj. Gen. Andre Viens. “This is what we did for the first time this year.”

The partners said the handoff’s success demonstrated the ability of joint forces to maintain control over an aircraft flying between U.S., Russian, and Canadian airspace by working together on the ground. NORAD and Russia hope to build on the exercise for future joint operations.

Planning for Vigilant Eagle 14 is scheduled to begin in November.

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