NORAD, Russia Practice Intercepting Hijacked Airliners

U.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 North 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 commercial 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.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “Up” to hell? I thought hell was the other way? But what do I know….

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

      • shawn1999

        After what the politicians have done to this country, are you sure its still down?

    • Rest Pal

      1988Vet, are you a Nam Vet? still bitter over the humiliating defeat at the hands of the poorly equipped Viet Cong?

      blame the criminally irresponsible politicians and the criminally incompetent military leaders.

      Did you know that Congress has declassified files about the Gulf of Tonkin incident? As many around the world have long been aware, it was a false flag operation by the military to drag the country into a war.


    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.”

      • Ben

        Luneberg lens. It’s been mentioned a few times in the comments here already.

  • 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.

      • Captain Obvious

        The Foxtrot Twenty-2 Has the capability to make a robotic noise and turn into a giant mechanical fighting machine.

    • 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

    • Bruce

      Not really, my undersanding is that the aircraft generally have attachments that change their reflectiveness (i.e. Luneberg lens). There are plenty of pics of them with the attachments while performing at airshows or in training etc.

      • Ben

        The F-22 in the picture above is even equipped with one.

        • Alexander

          Yes, its the thing sticking out on the bottom.

          • Ben

            Yeah, I know.

      • Rest Pal

        Bruce, that’s not understanding, but misunderstanding.

        the F-22 has absolutely no stealth to number of countries. Russia is one of them.

        soon, the F-22 would be as stealthy as the F-15 or the F-18 when smaller countries (e.g Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam etc) are fully equipped with anti-stealth radars from countries like Russia.

  • 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!

    • EvilPenguin

      Probably not unless it was Concorde! I always wondered what would have happened if there was an incident as it would have been hard to actually catch something cruising at around mach 2…

    • Scott Findley

      You do if you need to supercruise to get to the intercept without running out of fuel.

      • Rest Pal

        Utter nonsense.

        Exactly what comes to your mind when you see the word “airliner”? A large, supersonic stealthy fighter / bomber cruising at high altitude, or a slow, subsonic passenger plane designed to cruise at medium altitude?

    • Rest Pal

      That’s perhaps the only kind of easy menial tasks the F-22 can afford to perform without facing the risk of a crash or loss to enemy fire.

      At one critical failure of one kind or another per 1.6 hours in flight, and tens of thousands in cost of maintenance / repair, the F-22 is more of a liability than anything else. It certainly can’t win a dog fight against the aerodynamically optimized Sukhois, Eurofighters or their equals, nor can it evade (outrun or out-maneuver) the latest long and medium range AA missiles.

      Its so-called stealth is a complete joke against a properly equipped opponent.

  • 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

      The heavy lift version is still in development.

    • Rest Pal

      they are in Steven Segal’s juvenile wet dreams.

  • 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…

    • Ben


      Got a link? I’d love to see it.

      • BlackOwl18E…

    • blight_…

  • 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.