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.