NORAD, Russians join for computer-based mock terrorist exercise
The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The mock rescue of a plane seized by terrorists was the basis for a computer-based joint exercise by NORAD and the Russian Federation Air Force ended Wednesday with representatives from both entities agreeing that it will serve as solid preparation for next year’s event.
The annual event, part of the Vigilant Eagle exercise series, ran Monday through Wednesday and involved a core group of about 35 U.S., Russian and Canadian service members.
The participants, located at NORAD, the Alaskan NORAD Region and two Russian Federation Air Force control centers, communicated via a new Skype-like software, troubleshooting a scenario focused on detecting, escorting and forcing the landing of an international flight seized by terrorists.
“You don’t always know what’s going to happen on an airplane,” Brig. Gen. Richard Scobee, deputy director of operations of NORAD at Peterson Air Force Base, said at a news conference Wednesday outside NORAD headquarters. “Flight 93 is a perfect example. Passengers overwhelmed the terrorists, which is something we’re incredibly proud of. That could happen. But if that doesn’t happen, it’s our job to determine, ‘What are you going to do with that airplane?’
“If something does happen, we’re here to taken action. We’ll never be helpless again.”
Russian General-Major Sergey Vladimirovich Dronov, commander-in-chief of the 3rd Air Force Air Defense Command Eastern Military District, praised participants of the exercise, stating that issues were resolved professionally and in a timely fashion.
“I think that the parties achieved all of their goals, and they are also walking away with some priceless experience of interaction with each other,” Dronov said at the news conference through an interpreter. “I am convinced, and to the core I believe, that between these two groups right now, there is complete understanding and complete interaction to render to this potential adversary combined efforts.”
Aside from language, no other cultural barriers presented themselves as troublesome, Scobee said.
“Having grown up in the Cold War era, I thought that would be a significant stumbling block,” he said. “But my first trip to Moscow I found out immediately that our cultures are very similar. More so than any place I’ve been in the world, we value life. That’s the number one thing.”
Vigilant Eagle exercises, now in their fourth year, serve as an opportunity for NORAD and the Russians to share expertise in dealing with a common issue, Scobee said.
“Our countries are uniquely plagued by terrorism,” he said. “This exercise gives us an opportunity to work together, to learn from each other about how we deal with those kinds of events, those kinds of things so detrimental to good order and discipline which our countries enjoy.”
This year’s simulated exercise will serve as a dry run for next year’s live-fly exercise, which will center on a same or similar scenario, Scobee said.
“We want to do it first in a command post environment where we can learn the lessons that impact safety,” he said. “When we do it for real, it’s something we’ve already seen.”