Russian bombers intercepted near Alaska

Russian bombers intercepted near Alaska

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement that U.S. and Canadian fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers off the coast of Alaska on Thursday.

Two U.S. F-22 stealth jets and two Canadian CF-18 fighters approached the two Russian Tu-95 Bear H bombers, which are nuclear-capable, after they crossed into Alaskan and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zones, which extend about 200 miles off the west coast of Alaska.

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The two bombers remained in international airspace and at no point entered U.S. or Canadian sovereign territory.

“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States. NORAD operators identified and intercepted the Russian aircraft flying near our nations,” said Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander.  “Whether responding to violators of restricted airspace domestically or identifying and intercepting foreign military aircraft, NORAD is on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

The Russian bomber flights were restarted in 2007 as Moscow sought to boost its military capabilities. The Pentagon views the flights as part of Russia’s efforts to portray its military might to adversaries and prepare for a potential clash.

Thursday’s incident comes a week after NORAD identified two Russian maritime reconnaissance anti-submarine warfare aircraft in the same area.

“The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace west of mainland Alaska and at no time did the aircraft enter sovereign United States airspace,” NORAD said about that interception.

The most recent intercept prior to last week’s incident occurred in May when U.S. fighter jets were forced to approach Russian aircraft in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone twice in two days.

The U.S. also conducts similar flights in international airspace near Russia. 

Russian jets in June intercepted American aircraft three times over the Mediterranean Sea over the course of three hours. The 6th Fleet determined the second interaction to be “unsafe” due to the Russian aircraft “conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” an assessment the Russian military disputed.