Russia and NATO kick off anti-terror air force exercise
Jun 6, 2011, 8:51 GMT
Moscow - Russia and NATO on Monday kicked off an unprecedented training exercise to give their air forces practice in handing hijacked passenger planes moving through either sides' airspace.
Fighter pilots from the Russian, Polish, and Turkish air forces will be at the forefront of the five-day exercise, which will take place primarily over Poland and the Black Sea, according to a NATO statement.
The Vigilant Skies 2011 manoeuvres mark the first time air forces from the former Cold War opponents Russia and NATO will participate in a joint training exercise on counterterrorism, Interfax reported.
The first of the two simulated 'terrorist flight engagements' will take place on Tuesday July 7, with a pair of Polish F-16 fighter jets intercepting a plane playing the role of an airliner targeted by hijackers, whose flight path from Krakow takes it into airspace patrolled by the Russia.
Two Russian Sukhoi fighter jets will then escort and assist the airliner in landing. The scenario assumes that the civilians aboard the airliner prevent the hijackers from gaining control the aircraft, but it suffers navigation equipment damage in the fight, NATO said.
A second mission plans an intercept and escort of an already-hijacked airline not communicating with the ground and moving between Turkish and Russian airspace over the Black Sea.
Relations between Russia and NATO sometimes are tense. The Kremlin has singled out a US plan to deploy anti-missile defences in East Europe, and NATO deployments of fighter squadrons to the former Soviet Baltic states as particular irritants.
US officials have said anti-missile defences planned to be deployed in Poland are aimed at possible Iranian, not Russian, missiles, and NATO has said its deployment of combat aircraft to airfields in new NATO members Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are defensive in nature.
A goal of the Vigilant Skies exercise is to build trust between the two sides, the NATO statement said.
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