NORAD begins air exercise over Arctic Ocean

An Arctic Ocean air exercise involving Canadian and U.S. planes is underway this week, the North American Aerospace Defense Command [NORAD] announced.

A U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane and F-15 fighter planes arrived at the Canadian Forces Northern Area Headquarters Yellowknife, in Canada's Northwest Territories, on Tuesday for air defense exercises, with flights ranging from the Beaufort Sea [north of Alaska] to Thule AB [Air Base] in Greenland, a NORAD Twitter message said.

A KC-10 refueling plane, and Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter planes, a CP-140 long-range patrol aircraft and a CC-150T refueling plane are also involved.

NORAD, a 60 year-old partnership between the air forces of United States and Canada, emphasized in a statement last week that all flights will be at high altitude over sparsely populated terrain, and that the exercise has no connection to either government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"NORAD routinely conducts exercises with a variety of scenarios including airspace restriction violations, hijackings and responses to unknown aircraft," the statement added. "NORAD carefully plans and closely controls all exercises. This air defense exercise provides us the opportunity to hone our skills as Canadian and U.S. forces operate together with our allies and partners in the Arctic."

Several scenarios, including violations of sovereign airspace, will be practiced. NORAD is regularly involved in interception of Russian military aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.

In June, a NORAD statement said, U.S. F-22 jets intercepted four Russian Tu-142 planes that came within 65 nautical miles of the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska and "loitered in the ADIZ for nearly 8 hours."

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