NATO and Russian fighter jets took part in a joint anti-terror exercise in Poland on Wednesday at time when ties are strained between the military alliance and Moscow.
Codenamed Vigilant Skies, the operation simulates a 9-11 style hijacking of a civilian airliner.
In this exercise, air traffic controllers in Moscow and Warsaw sound the alarm after the aircraft deviates off-course.
They scramble Russian and Polish fighter jets to intercept the plane and escort it away from heavily populated areas.
Michal Zychowicz, a pilot from the ‘hijacked’ aircraft, said:
“The fighters were keeping formation: three of Polish F-16s were on the left side behind our aircraft. Then they handed over the job. And Russian fighters were doing the same thing from the right side.”
But what happens if the hijackers ignore the order to land?
The decision to shoot down the plane rests with whichever country controls the airspace.
Turkish Brigadier General Hakan Evrim said that “NATO is responsible for this kind of stuff during the peacetime (training) missions.
“Whatever happens for real in terms of using the weapons etc we delegate this responsibility to nations, immediately,” he said.
NATO and Russia launched the Vigilant Skies program in 2002, one year after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington that left nearly three thousand people dead.