A live counter-terrorism exercise dubbed Vigilant Skies 2013 was held this week to test the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) Cooperative Airspace Initiative (CAI) Information Exchange System.
The exercise involved Turkish, Polish and Russian fighter aircraft and air traffic controllers in a scenario envisaging two separate terrorist hijackings of civilian aircraft in Turkish, Russian and Polish airspace. During the exercise, NATO and Russian air traffic controllers coordinated the scramble of fighters to intercept and escort the aircraft to safe landings.
Launched in 2002, the CAI aims to develop a reciprocal air traffic information exchange and communication capability to coordinate rapid joint responses to terrorist air security threats. The current CAI network consists of four air traffic control units in NATO nations and four in Russia, connected by coordination centers in Warsaw and Moscow.