WARSAW, Poland – NATO and Russia teamed up Tuesday to test their ability to fight terrorism, using a military transport plane to simulate a hijacking over Poland and sending in fighter planes to save it, an official said. It was the first time NATO and Russia, which doesn't belong to the alliance, had conducted such an anti-terrorism exercise together.
During it, the transport plane departed from the southern Polish city of Krakow and was "hijacked" as it flew toward St. Petersburg, Russia, said Polish Maj. Waldemar Krzyzanowski.
Russian Su-27 and Polish F-16 fighter planes led the transport plane to a safe landing in Malbork, northern Poland, after being told to assume that terrorists had damaged its navigation system before being overpowered.
In a similar scenario Wednesday, a Turkish plane is to be "hijacked" over the Black Sea, then brought safely home by Turkish and Russian fighters.
Krzyzanowski, who described the "Vigilant Skies 2011" exercises, said the goal is to coordinate the abilities of NATO countries such as Poland and Turkey to join up with Russia to quickly track down and rescue hijacked aircraft.
"This is the first such counterterrorism exercise held between NATO and the Russian Federation," a NATO statement said. It called the exercise "a major milestone" in the so-called Cooperative Airspace Initiative system, a NATO-Russian effort to enhance the collective capability of fighting possible terrorist threats.