NORAD, Russia Practice Intercepting Hijacked Airliners

Vigilant EagleU.S. and Russian forces began a joint exercise Monday over the Bering Sea despite the raised tensions with U.S. naval forces moving into position to potentially fire cruise missiles into Syria.

The exercise will simulate the response to a hijacked airliner. It’s the third iteration of the exercise named Vigilant Eagle run Aug. 26-30 by┬áNorth American Aerospace Defense Command and the Russian Federation Air Force.

Vigilant Eagle will include two flights: one in which Russian fighters fly into U.S. airspace and one in which U.S. fighters fly into Russian airspace over the Bering Sea. The first flight will originate in Alaska flying into Russia. The second flight will originate in Russia and fly into Alaska.

The exercise scenario will include a┬ácommercial air carrier that is supposedly hijacked by terrorists. Fighters from the respective nations will then intercept the commercial jet before handing it off to the other nation’s fighter team once it enters the other’s airspace.

“These exercises continue to foster the improved cooperation between the RFAF and NORAD in their ability to respond quickly to threats of air terrorism,” NORAD officials said in a statement.

Of course, this is all happening with the backdrop of worsening relations between the U.S. and Russia. Russia has tried to protect President Bashar al-Assad even after reports he used chemical weapons in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Also, Edward Snowden, the former U.S. defense contractor who leaked secrets about the NSA, has sought asylum in Russia.

Still don’t be too alarmed if you find yourself in Alaska and see fighter jets escorting a commercial jet liner this week — even if the airliner is being escorted by Russian jets.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Lance

    Nice to see MiG-29s and F-22s fly together.

    • Ben

      Because any other time it would just be F-22s.

    • XYZ

      I think it was Tom Clancy that first introduced the idea into my head. Russia joining NATO. Splooge.

      Maybe in a hundred or two hundred years =

    • shawn1999

      Just because the picture is of an F-22 because its “cool” doesn’t mean that it the American aircraft involved in these exercises- the article doesn’t mention what aircraft on either side will be involved.

  • 1988Vet

    Blow those commies up to hell.


    Only difference is Russians were’nt able to detect the F22’s.

    • Alexander

      The F-22s have a lens on the bottom, that bump in the image, that amplifies its radar signature.

    • Smeghead

      Sure they can, if the U.S. is smart about it. For stuff like this, if they have any sense, they’d artificially raise the RCS of the F-22’s involved in order to mask their true capabilities, and keep the aircraft under some level of EMCON for the same purpose.

      What would make most sense would be for the F-22’s to go up with a full set of drop tanks and external missile rails to increase the radar cross-section of the aircraft.

      I also thought there was some form of augmenting doodad they could fit to the aircraft that increases the RCS of the aircraft significantly, along the lines of a retroreflector, but my google-fu is letting me down this morning; I can’t find anything that specifically talks about it, but I’m certain I’ve read about it before.

      For example, on page 1 of this thesis:

      “The enhancement of radar cross section can also be an effective tool. Targets with enhanced cross section can be used to deceive and saturate threat radars. Enhancement devices can be concealed and used to mask true radar signatures from unwanted measuring sources.”

  • baghatur

    Great opperunity for russians to scan f22 radar profiles.

    • JCross

      Won’t be seen from ground stations, and if NORAD detects the russians trying to sneak in any other aircraft, they can and will cancel the flight.

    • Rest Pal

      The Russians don’t need F-22’s radar profiles. Russia has multiple radar systems (among other sensor suites) that can detect the F-22.

      Only Americans are naive and gullible enough to buy into this hype about stealth.

    • fester

      I thought the exact same thing after seeing photo.great comment.

  • baghatur

    Great opportunity for russians to scan f22 radar profiles. :S

  • Jonmusser

    Are we sure we will be using f-22 i would assign f-15s keep the raptors safe and at elmondorf

  • blight_

    There were plans to design a stealthy missile but the program either died or went top secret. Pity. (Have Dash)

    Do you even need a F-22 to intercept hijacked airliners? Hah!

  • hibeam

    If you are interested to stop this problem at the bearded lunatic on a motorcycle stage then I know where they hang out. So does everyone. Pakistan. Northern mostly.

  • Speedy

    Where are the modified F117s with Steven Segal in them?

  • hibeam

    Hello NORAD? Commander Spike Granite here. I intercepted the airliner. Easy as pie. Now what?

  • BlackOwl18E

    Seriously! How the hell did this make the news on defense tech and Boeing’s Advanced Super Hornet flying with conformal fuel tanks and an enclosed weapon pod did not? Defense tech needs to get on the ball…

  • top dog

    Russia?….Very interesting.

  • shawn1999

    I find it interesting that they mention the tensions with Snowden and Assad. Now more than ever is just cause to hold exactly such drills. Both countries military personnel have 1 goal in mind (at least among the true soldiers): protect our citizens for they are our families and friends. It would be horrible if innocents were harmed (yet again) due to the ineptitude of politicians and their effects on our militaries.


    Hate to be the pilot in either MiG or Raptor. Think about it. Getting the order to shoot down a passenger plane? God, nerve racking…..

    • Michael Burnett

      Indeed. Think about the guilt which would plague the pilot for life! Fighter pilots (American or Russian) are trained to defend their countries against enemies, NOT to slaughter innocent passengers on defenseless airliners.

      Michael Burnett, SMsgt, USAF (Ret.