NORAD initiative intended to strengthen ties with Russia, better fight terrorism
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The North American Aerospace Defense Command is pursuing an initiative that could build a stronger relationship between the United States, Canada and Russia and better confront the War on Terrorism.
NORAD proposes to share an air surveillance program with Russia along the Bering Strait, the border between Alaska and Siberia. The program would expand a Cooperative Airspace Initiative that currently exists in Eastern Europe and consists of an agreement among NATO countries and Russia.
“This is an opportunity to break the barrier and improve transparency between (the United States, Canada and Russia),” said Army Maj. Rey Rinen, an action officer for NORAD’s policy and doctrine branch. “We want to get past the Cold War axioms, and the NORAD commander’s Cooperative Airspace Initiative (proposal) is a tool to get us there. It provides a closer tie with the Russians and a better air picture for the War on Terrorism.”
The idea to pursue the initiative was raised when General-Lieutenant Igor Khvorov, commander of the Russian Federation Air Forces’ 37th Strategic Air Army, visited NORAD in December 2005. During his visit, Khvorov was briefed on a proposal to conduct combined NORAD-Russian training exercises, in addition to the cooperative airspace initiative.
NATO and Russia initiated the CAI to obtain an airspace picture and establish a shared air surveillance program between Russia and Eastern Europe.
The success and usefulness of the CAI in Europe will determine whether the initiative will be pursued in the Bering Strait, with NORAD the next logical organization to get involved, Rinen said.
NORAD’s involvement would include the Alaska NORAD Region, in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration.
NORAD and the FAA would be critical members of this phase of the initiative, as they would have to be in close communication and on the same wavelength as to how they would share information between Russia and Alaska, said Canadian Forces Capt. Pascal Tremblay, of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command's Command and Control Systems Integration Branch.
More than 10 countries currently support the initiative.
“What is hopeful,” Rinen said, “is that the CAI starts out in Eastern Europe with Poland being a participant with Russia. That will provide a common air picture of commercial air traffic between the (Russia and Eastern Europe) borders.”
Two coordination centers would be set up: one in Poland and one in Moscow. Moscow would receive information from its own air traffic control center and filter the information to Poland, who would then send information to the other participating European countries. Other European countries with sensors would feed the Polish coordination center with their air pictures, and they could be selective with what they submit.
“That’s the concept,” Tremblay said. “NORAD has reviewed the main technological concepts of the Eurocontrol system. NATO conducted a test last September and, from their perspective, it seems to work pretty well. That’s why we’re entrusted to look at the source and determine if that could be a solution we can implement between Russia and Alaska.
“If all NATO members agree (in coordination with the Canadian government and the Nav Canada corporation), NORAD and Russia will be able to share (the proposed) air space picture.”
The Department of Defense Policy Board on Federal Aviation is the CAI program manager. In an effort to develop a better understanding of technological capabilities between Russia and the United States, the board set up a Bering Sea Meeting in June 2006 to visit Alaska and Russia.
Rinen and Tremblay, who joined the NATO team and Russian delegates on the trip, participated in an exchange of technological data and information and observed facilities, which included tours of air traffic control centers in Anchorage, Alaska, and Magadan, Russia.
“These centers were chosen because Magadan is the focal point for any air traffic in the Far East, and Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage is in charge of air traffic within Alaska,” Tremblay said. “So, it made sense to tour these two places. From a technical point of view, we could look at the different systems to determine if they were at the same level of technology and if they were compatible. And, if not, it gave us insight on how we could develop solutions.”
The NORAD representatives received a very good brief about technological capabilities from the Russian staff in Magadan, Tremblay said.
“They opened up their doors to their systems and operations floor and answered all of our questions,” he said. “They were extremely cooperative. It was a very worthwhile trip.”
The biggest take-away from the trip was the development of interpersonal relationships between the NATO team members and the Russian delegates, Rinen said.
“The CAI has been going on for the past few years with the same members on both sides,” Rinen said. “The relationship that’s being built between each group is paying off. We arrived as observers (during the recent trip), but we left as team members.”