U.S. military officials say elements of the Russian Air Force will join U.S. and Canadian air units in the first-ever joint air defense exercises between the former Cold War foes.

A statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, says the maneuvers - set to begin August 8 - will include training to detect and combat terrorist attacks on commercial airliners.  

The exercises, code-named Vigilant Eagle, will be coordinated from a U.S. military command center at Elmendorf air base in Alaska and Russian facilities near the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk.

Russian Air Force spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Drik, described the exercises as part of a working plan to improve cooperation between Russian and U.S. forces.

A NORAD statement said the maneuvers will require both the Russian and NORAD bases to launch or divert fighter planes to investigate and shadow commercial aircraft.