Sukhoi Su-27 and F-16 fighter jets intercept renegade plane during NATO – Russia counterterrorism drills

The Polish and Russian airspace along with the Southern Baltic area have been the scenario in which Vigilant Skies 2013 exercise took place.

The primary objective of the training was to check whether the  Cooperative Aerospace Initiative (CAI) works. CAI is an initiative whose aim is to prevent terror acts with the use of civilian aircraft, similar to 9/11, by means of information exchange about the events in NATO and Russian airspaces, and coordinated scrambles on the suspect aircraft – referred to as “renegade.

The secondary objective of CAI is to make it easier to enter the neighbour’s airspace should an emergency occur, such as a jet without a pilot (who ejected) falling down beyond the national border.

It is the third time Vigilant Skies takes place, the first one being in 2011, between Jun. 6 and Jun. 9.

According to the official website of the Polish Air Force, that took part in the drills along with the Turkish and Russian Air Force, Vigilant Skies-2013 simulated an  event of hijacking a passenger airliner, simulated by a CASA C-295 from the Polish Air Force’s 8 Air Transport Base.

Within the simulated scenario, the hijacked aircraft was expected to fly towards Scandinavia, but hijackers have damaged the radio and forced the pilots to fly towards St. Petersburg.

Two F-16s from the Krzesiny AB intercepted, visually identified and shadowed the renegade. Then the commander of the Coalition Air Operation Center in Uedem passed the command of the intercept to the Center in Warsaw, that, in turn time briefed Moscow Center on the situation.

The F-16 provided an escort to the territorial waters of Russia in the Kaliningrad Oblast where they handed over the renegade to the Russian Su-27 pilots. Meanwhile, the passengers on the plane took care of the terrorists and the plane turned back to Poland.

It was again intercepted by the Polish F-16s and landed at the 22 Tactical AB in Malbork.

In total the exercise took about 3 hours. The escort changed within a few seconds. The aircraft did not violate the neighbour’s airspace. There was no collision alert as Su-27 and F-16 pilots acted according to the ICAO guidelines.

CAI is a result of 2002 NATO-Russia-Poland Council that acts towards building a greater political trust between Russian Federation and NATO neighbouring countries, Norway and Turkey.

The coordinating centers, besides the ones in Moscow and Warsaw are located in Bodo, Norway and Ankara in Turkey, and additional Russian ones in Murmansk, Kaliningrad and Rostov.

Similar drills in cooperation with Ukraine took place in 2011, under the name Safe Skies.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image credit: mjr R. Siemaszko/DPI MON/

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About Jacek Siminski
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