The United States and Russia have completed their first-ever Vigilant Eagle cooperative air defense exercise, NORAD officials announced Wednesday. Vigilant Eagle took place over the course of three days, with US and Russian military and civil air-traffic-control personnel practicing how they would cooperatively deal with a hijacked airliner flying over the Pacific near Alaska and the Russian Far East. In one drill, Air Force F-22s scrambled to intercept a Gulfstream 4 airplane that was acting as the mock-hijacked airliner. The F-22s then handed over control of the Gulfstream to Russian Su-27s as the Gulfstream neared Russian airspace. In the second drill, the Su-27s escorted the Gulfstream until it neared Alaska and then they relinquished control to the F-22s. Russian Air Force Col. Alexander Vasilyev said terrorism affects both nations “so it is very important that we work together.” (Anchorage report by Capt. Sharbe Clark)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.