U.S. fighter jets for the second time this week intercepted two formations of Russian military aircraft off the coast of Alaska, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a Wednesday statement.
F-22 Raptors, backed by KC-135 aerial refueling tankers and an E-3 early warning aircraft, intercepted two Russian bomber formations in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone Tuesday night, according to NORAD.
The first formation consisted of two Russian Tu-95 bombers, two Su-35 fighter jets and an A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, while the second had two bombers and an A-50. Both came within 32 nautical miles of the Alaskan coast but did not enter U.S. airspace, NORAD said.
Moscow’s aircraft are increasingly flying closer to U.S. airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles off American shores.
The two Russian formations on Tuesday were identical to those that came close to the Alaskan coast last week. In that instance, the formations came within 20 nautical miles of Alaskan shores, the closest in some time.
In March and again in April, the U.S. military also intercepted Russian aircraft that got within 50 nautical miles off the coast.
“For the eighth time this year, Russian military aircraft have penetrated our Canadian or Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zones and each and every time NORAD forces were ready to meet this challenge,” NORAD commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said in the statement.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, NORAD constantly monitors the northern approaches to our nations and our operations make it clear that we will conduct homeland defense efforts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”