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Russian Fighters Join NORAD for Exercise

This year's Vigilant Eagle training exercise for Russian, U.S. and Canadian military planes over Alaska was the most ambitious so far, military leaders say.

Vigilant Eagle 13 began Monday and concluded Thursday, the Armed Forces Press Service said. The annual exercise allows pilots from the North American Aerospace Command, which includes U.S. and Canadian forces, and Russia to practice scenarios where they might have to work together to detect and track hijacked commercial planes.

The exercise was the first in which Canadian fighter jets participated, joining with their Russian counterparts in tracking a hijacked plane. Canadian Maj. Gen. Andre Viens, NORAD's operations director, said it was also the first in which the air forces worked together from start to finish instead of breaking off the tracking, leaving the job to ground sensors.

"So at no time in the past did we exercise having the Russian, Canadian or American fighters all joining up together to have a positive handoff of escort responsibility on a track of interest," Viens said. "This is what we did for the first time this year."

Viens held a joint news conference Thursday with Russian Gen. Maj. Dmitry Gomenkov, commander of the Eastern Military District of Russia's Air and Space Defense Brigade.

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