The United States, Canada, and Russia will cooperatively respond to mock hijacked commercial aircraft during the live-fly portion of Vigilant Eagle 13 that kicks off on Tuesday over the Bering Sea. The first hijacked aircraft surrogate is slated to take off on Aug. 27 from Anchorage, Alaska, and will travel into Russian airspace. On Aug. 28, a surrogate will take off from Anadyr, Russia, and head into US airspace. In both scenarios, Canadian CF-18s and Russian Sukhois will scramble to identify and follow the hijacked aircraft. They will also practice handing off control of the aircraft to one another when it leaves one side’s airspace. Air Force and Russian command and control aircraft will also participate. “This is a small, relatively inexpensive exercise, with a huge payoff,” said Joseph Bonnet, NORAD’s director of joint training and exercises. The exercise runs through Friday. This is the fifth iteration of the Vigilant Eagle series since 2008 and the third in the series to incorporate a live-fly air defense component. (NORAD release) (AFPS report by Donna Miles)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.