CF-18 fighter jets on guard during Exercise Amalgam Dart

By Holly Bridges | June 21, 2007

"Just be advised if all of a sudden you hear a loud horn go off, it means I have to go," said Major Kirk "Rambo" Soroka, a pilot with 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta.

Interviewing the CF-18 fighter pilot by phone from Exercise Amalgam Dart was a bit of risky business, since he could have been called to duty at any moment.

Canadian fighter pilots take turns holding standby 24/7, 365 days a year, across North America ready to launch at any time under the command of North American Aerospace Command (NORAD). Major "Rambo" Kirk Soroka from 409 Squadron Cold Lake, gives a last minute check before take off during a scramble of aircraft in support of Amalgam Dart. CREDIT: MCpl Jo-Anne Verreault

"Whenever the Commander of NORAD has a track of interest we go out there and intercept it. Being fully armed, we are prepared to do whatever is required to protect North American sovereignty," said Maj Soroka, a former army infantryman and one of several Canadian fighter pilots who flew combat missions in Kosovo in 1999.

Ex Amalgam Dart tested these fighter forces in their ability to respond quickly, effectively and efficiently to potential airborne threats. The exercise was one of a series of NORAD simulations that are held throughout the year designed to provide realistic training, to evaluate tactics and practices and to ensure connectivity and interoperability. The three-day exercise focused on live-fly interception of unauthorized aircraft incursions into Canadian and American airspace. Corporal Chantal Lefebre, Avionic Systems Technician from 409 Squadron, prepares a fire suppression system while Captain (Capt) Edward Miller prepares for take off. CREDIT: Corporal Drew Deics

"Prior to 9/11 we used to look outward but now we're looking inward," said Maj Soroka. "Now we are on 24/7 alert to maintain and protect the sovereignty of the U.S. and Canada against those who would wish to do us harm.

"Every one of us is highly motivated, and we don't ever want to see anything like 9/11 ever happen again. Canadians (and Americans) can rest comfortably at night knowing that armed aircraft are out there willing to protect them - that we're there for them at the end of the day."

Ex Amalgam Dart took place at 19 Wing Comox in British Columbia between June 14 and 18.