U.S. Air Force fighter jets intercepted two Russian patrol aircraft near Alaska on Wednesday, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced.
The U.S. F-22 Raptors “intercepted two Russian IL-38 aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone,” NORAD said over multiple posts to Twitter on Thursday.
NORAD said the Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft — which are used to hunt for submarines — were intercepted in the Bering Sea, north of the Aleutian Islands, and did not enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace.
“COVID-19 or not, NORAD continues actively watching for threats and defending the homelands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” NORAD Commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said in the posts.
O’Shaughnessy later on Thursday on "Fox & Friends" said the Russian aircraft flew within 50 miles of the Alaskan coast, adding that Moscow “wanted to see if we are able to react.”
Russia repeatedly flies its reconnaissance aircraft as well as bomber plane patrols near Alaska — with 48 such patrols in 2019 — which the United States sometimes intercepts.
The most recent such instance was in early March, when U.S. and Royal Canadian air force fighter jets intercepted two Russian Tu-142 aircraft.