Russia and NATO are scheduled to co-operate on a counter terrorism exercise from 6th – 10th June 2011. “Vigilant Skies 2011” will practice the response to a terrorist hijacking of civilian aircraft such as that which took place in New York on 11th September 2001. Polish and Turkish aircraft will take part in mock hijackings and joint interceptions.
By co-ordinating between air traffic control and co-ordinating the interception of “renegade” aircraft, it is hoped that Russia and NATO will improve their ability to respond to an attack which repeats the methods of the September 11th attack on New York.
The Co-operative Airspace Initiative will create a shared radar picture of NATO and Russian civilian airspace. The system is touted as providing an “early warning of suspicious air activities through commonly agreed procedures. In situations when an aircraft starts behaving erratically, the air traffic coordination system offers increased information sharing and communication to ensure rapid, joint responses to terrorist threats.”
The co-ordination centres will be housed in Warsaw and Moscow, with local coordination sites in Kaliningrad, Rostov-on-Don, Murmansk (Russia), Warsaw (Poland), Bodø (Norway), and Ankara (Turkey). The live flight phase of the joint exercise is as follows:
“On 7th June, a Polish aircraft will play a ‘renegade’ aircraft role, taking off from Krakow. After a flight plan deviation and loss of communication with the aircraft, Polish fighters will intercept the aircraft, before handing the mission on to Russian fighters. Following a struggle in the cockpit, the terrorists will be overpowered, but the plane’s navigation equipment will be damaged and the plane will need to be guided by the Russian fighters back to Poland. The aircraft will land in Malbork, Poland.
“On 8th June, over the Black Sea, a flight plan deviation and communication loss will be observed with a Turkish ‘renegade’ aircraft, and coordinated intercepts by Turkish and then Russian fighters will be carried out.”
The final go-ahead for the exercise is dependant upon weather and other factors.