ON June 15 and 16, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CF-18 Hornet fighter jets, under the control of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), practiced identification and intercept procedures as United States Air Force (USAF) B-52 Stratofortress bombers returned to the U.S. from an overseas exercise.
The B-52s were initially intercepted south of Iceland by RCAF CF-18 Hornets, who were operating under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as part of Operation Reassurance – Iceland. The NATO controlled jets escorted the U.S. bombers towards Canadian airspace before returning to Iceland. Canadian NORAD Region (CANR) aircraft intercepted the bombers as they approached the Canadian Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) along the east coast of Canada. The CANR fighters conducted safe passage escort procedures, and eventually handed off escort to USAF F-15 Eagles from the Continental U.S. NORAD Region (CONR) near the Canada-U.S. border.
This exercise took place twice over June 15 and 16 as the B-52s were transiting home. These USSTRATCOM long-range bomber flights provided an ideal opportunity for CANR to practice cross-border inter-operability and coordination, all of which keeps NORAD forces well-prepared to defend the air sovereignty of Canada and the U.S.
“Canada’s commitment to working with our American partners to jointly defend the airspace of North America through NORAD is a top priority for the Royal Canadian Air Force. This exercise provided an opportunity for NORAD forces to work with NATO, to train and ensure they are prepared for the critical mission of defending North America,” said Major-General Christian Drouin, Commander, 1 Canadian Air Division and the Canadian NORAD Region.
· The USAF B-52 Stratofortress bombers were participating in a U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) bomber assurance and deterrence exercise.
· NORAD is a bi-national command formed by a partnership between Canada and the U.S. NORAD provides aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning for North America.
· This NORAD training exercise Vigilant Shield 17-1 is part of the Vigilant Shield exercise series, which validates capabilities for deploying forces and enhances joint inter-operability and cooperation to ensure air sovereignty.
· NORAD ensures U.S. and Canadian aerospace control to include air sovereignty and air defense operations through a network of alert fighters, tankers, airborne early warning aircraft, and ground-based air defense assets cued by interagency and defense surveillance radars.
· The ADIZ is a buffer zone of internationally-recognized airspace surrounding North America that facilitates the identification of aircraft well before they would enter sovereign Canadian or U.S. airspace. It is airspace of defined dimensions within which the ready identification, location, and control of airborne vehicles are required.
· Air Task Force-Iceland is based out of Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, and is currently conducting air operations in support of NATO airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet Iceland’s peacetime preparedness needs. NATO Air Policing is aimed at preserving the integrity of NATO airspace.
· Allied Air Command is in charge of all NATO Air Policing over European NATO Allies using two Combined Air Operations Commands (CAOCs) (one in Torrejón, Spain, one in Uedem, Germany) to control the 24/7 peacetime standing mission. CAOC Uedem is responsible for the Air Policing Area north of the Alps, which makes them the point of contact for NORAD during Vigilant Shield 17-1 near Iceland.