Defense

September 4, 2012

NORAD, Russia train to confront terrorist hijackings

Air Force Brig. Gen. Richard W, Scobee, deputy director of operations for North American Aerospace Defense Command, answers questions about Vigilant Eagle 12, Aug. 29, 2012.

It was a scene unthinkable even 30 years ago as U.S., Canadian and Russian militaries worked together this week at the North American Aerospace Command headquarters to confront a common enemy: terrorist hijackers.

That’s exactly what happened during Vigilant Eagle 12, the third exercise of its kind designed to promote collaboration in detecting hijacked aircraft and scrambling military jets to intercept and escort them to safety.

This year’s three-day exercise was computer-based, with participants at the NORAD headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and at two bases in Russia.

The scenario involved commercial airliners on international flights that had been seized by terrorists, Air Force Brig. Gen. Richard W. Scobee, NORAD’s deputy operations director, told reporters as the exercise wrapped up yesterday. One simulated hijacking took off from Alaska and was headed for Russian airspace; the other originated in Russia and was bound for the United States.

The scenarios required NORAD – the U.S.-Canada command that safeguards U.S. skies under Operation Noble Eagle — and the Russian air force to go through the procedures they would use to dispatch fighter jets to investigate and track the aircraft heading toward each other’s airspace. At that point, they handed off the missions to the other to complete.

Applying lessons learned during last year’s exercise, which involved actual aircraft, the participants worked through escort and handoff procedures using their different communications, command-and-control and air traffic control systems, Scobee explained.

To complicate the scenarios, and to reflect what assets might be available during a real-life hijacking, they had to work without input from the U.S. Air Force’s Airborne Warning and Control System or Russia’s A-50 Beriev system.

NORAD and Russia share surprisingly similar tactics, techniques and procedures, Scobee said yesterday during a post exercise news conference. “It is remarkable that they are so similar,” he said. “Even though we developed them separately, we see the problem similarly.”

Russian air force (left) and Joseph C. Bonnet III, director of joint training and exercises for North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command (right), during exercise Vigilant Eagle 12 at NORAD headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Aug. 28, 2012.

Subtle differences became transparent during the exercise, Scobee said, because of the “clean handoff” as one command handed the mission and authority over to the other. “It was like a handshake,” he said.

The unifying factor, Scobee said, was an understanding that actions taken could mean the difference between life and death for passengers. “That is the No. 1 thing – and the Russian Federation is just like NORAD [and] the United States and Canada,” Scobee said. “We want to protect our citizens, and that is our primary goal.”

Scobee and Maj. Gen. Sergey Dronov of the Russian air force, who led Russia’s delegation in Colorado, praised the professionalism of both the NORAD and Russian militaries and their shared appreciation of the importance of the mission.

“Right now, we have a common enemy, and that is terrorism,” Dronov said through an interpreter.

“Our countries are uniquely plagued by terrorism,” agreed Scobee. “And this exercise gives us an opportunity to work together, to learn from each other about how we are dealing with those kinds of events.”

The goal, he said, is to increase the complexity of the exercises, refining concepts and procedures in simulation, then applying them in the sky the following year.

“Next year, we will go back and use lessons learned from this exercise and apply them to another live-fly exercise,” he said. “It will be one of those things where we learn from each other and keep building on the exercises we have.”

Future exercises will continue to integrate new curve balls that keep participants on their toes while reflecting how adaptable adversaries operate, Scobee said.

“It is a constant chess game, because just like we don’t keep our tactics stagnant, terrorists do the same thing,” he said. “They are always thinking of another way to try to get past our systems of control. So we always have to think about adjusting our tactics, our training and our procedures.”

Dronov said he was impressed during this year’s exercise by how quickly the participants dealt with challenging scenarios thrown their way. “They are also walking away with some priceless experience of interaction with each other,” he said. “I am confident that in the future, this cooperation will continue.”

The Vigilant Eagle series stems from a 2003 agreement between the U.S. and Russian presidents to promote closer cooperation as they move beyond the Cold War era, Scobee explained. The threat of international hijackers served as a foundation to help advance that effort, resulting in a relevant exercise program that helps address a recognized threat.

“The populations of the United States and Canada and the Russian Federation should hear this loud and clear: We are here to ensure their safety,” Scobee said. “Not only do we practice here at NORAD multiple times a day for this to happen, but now we are also practicing with our international partners to ensure that the air systems of all our countries are safe. And then, if something does go wrong, that we are there to take action.”

This helps to provide a unified front against terrorist hijackers like those who attacked the United States on 9/11, giving birth to the Noble Eagle mission, he said.

“We will never be helpless again,” Scobee added. “[The public] should hear that loud and clear.”

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines September 15, 2014

News: Navy identifies pilot presumed dead in crash - A Navy fighter pilot presumed dead after two fighter jets crashed in the far western Pacific Ocean has been identified.   Business: Boeing eyes 737-700 solution for new JSTARS - Boeing is officially planning a variant of its 737-700 commercial jetliner as a competitor for the Air Force’s...
 
 

News Briefs September 15, 2014

Australia contributing planes for anti-IS campaign Australia is preparing to contribute 600 troops and up to 10 military aircraft to the increasingly aggressive campaign against the Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sept. 14. Abbott said Australia was responding to a formal request from the United States for specific...
 
 
Courtesy graphic

Lockheed Martin conducts flight tests of aircraft laser turret for DARPA

AFRL photograph The Aero-adaptive Aero-optic Beam Control turret that Lockheed Martin is developing for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory has completed initial flight testing. T...
 

 

Lockheed Martin advances live, virtual, constructive training in flight test

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jvXmOW8L3mU Lockheed Martin successfully tested a new solution for integrated live, virtual and constructive training during a flight demonstration at the company’s Aeronautics facility in Fort Worth, Texas. During the flight test, a pilot flying in a live F-16 engaged in a synthetic training exercise with a pilot flying as wing...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover arrives at Martian mountain

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has reached the Red Planet’s Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission’s long-term prime destination. “Curiosity n...
 
 

Raytheon begins full rate production on TALON Laser Guided Rockets

Under a $117 million contract awarded to Raytheon, Raytheon Missile Systems has begun production of the TALON Laser Guided Rocket. In 2013, the Armed Forces General Headquarters of the United Arab Emirates awarded Tawazun a contract to procure the TALON Laser Guided Rocket. “Full rate production of the TALON LGR is a significant milestone for...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>