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Joint military/homeland security defense exercise underway

Operation Vigilant Shield

The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, as well as the Canadian military, have begun an extensive annual field training exercise for the U.S. Northern Command.

“Operation Vigilant Shield 12” is the biggest multi-spectrum, high-level exercise for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. Northern Command is a Unified Combatant Command of the United States military, formed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 to protect the United States homeland and support local, state, and federal authorities.

Operation Vigilant Shield 12, or VS 12, is a joint exercise supported by the Joint Coalition Warfare Center and conducted as a command post exercise with a supporting field training exercise in Key West, FL. The exercise is also linked to a Canada Command exercise called “Determined Dragon,” and runs concurrently with the Arizona’s “Vigilant Guard” exercise. It runs Nov. 1-10.

According to the Army, the overall exercise scenario for VS 12 is based on potential threats to the U.S. and Canada that require extensive military planning to support national objectives and provide multiple military options to the national leadership.

The Department of Defense’s Armed Services Press Service said on Nov. 4 the exercise involves events in Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Washington D.C. U.S. Navy ships, Army ground-based radar and missile systems, along with Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard aircraft operating around in Key West, FL, it said.  Northcom’s operations center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is coordinating a joint deployable integrated air and missile defense system and elements of a logistics support facility dispatched to Naval Air Station Key West, to test their capabilities against simulated enemy attacks. Army officials said the test simulation scenarios involved a full-spectrum of threats, including terrorist attack.

“The scenario for the exercise is based on potential military threats to the United States and Canada that require extensive military planning to provide a range of military options to our national leadership,” said Army Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., Northcom and NORAD commander, in a blog announcing the exercise.

VS 12 planners, said DoD, combined the event with other training U.S. military and DHS exercises in Washington  D.C.  and Arizona, as well as Canadian military exercises to increase the realism of the scenarios and test the ability of federal, state and international partners to provide a synchronized response to threats.

It said routine training flights under way across the Washington, D.C., region were testing Northcom’s and NORAD’s ability to coordinate with DHS, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other federal agencies.

In the Southwest, a joint regional exercise called“Vigilant Guard Arizona,” is being  sponsored by Northcom and the National Guard Bureau to test and improve military processes, procedures and coordination with state and local responders, officials said. At the same time, Canada Command is conducting “Determined Dragon” to test the readiness of Canadian forces at the national level, said DoD.