US Fighter Planes Intercept Russian Bombers Near Alaska, Says NORAD

Clay Curtis
May 22, 2019

The U.S. military scrambled five aircraft Monday to intercept two groups of Russian warplanes that flew in opposite directions off the coast of Alaska but never entered sovereign U.S. airspace, officials with the bi-national North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) said Tuesday.

NORAD said that Tupolev Tu-95 bombers and Su-35 fighters were intercepted by two F-22 fighter planes as they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. NORAD commanders sent additional two Raptor jets to help escort the entire contingent of Russian aircraft out of US airspace, along with an E-3 AWACS surveillance plane to monitor the situation.

The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed the incident in a Tweet, saying the Tu-95 bombers "made scheduled sorties over the neutral waters of the Chukotka, Bering and Okhotsk seas, as well as along the western coast of Alaska and the northern coast of the Aleutian Islands". The Russian planes were "positively identified", the agency wrote.

It is yet not clear as to why did the Russian had sent so many bombers so close to the U.S. air defenses.

The incident occurred just a day after four nuclear-capable Russian bombers and two Russian fighter jets were intercepted off the west coast of Alaska by USA aircraft.

In recent years, with tensions between Russian Federation and the West mounting in other areas of the world, Moscow has increased the number of patrols by its Bears, which have been modernized and outfitted to carry long-range nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. NORAD monitors the airspace and scrambles jets when unauthorized aircraft enter it.

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A map from the FAA shows the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) extending around the state's coastline.

A U.S. E-3 Sentry maintained overall surveillance on the operation.

Moscow state mouthpiece TASS reported the formation was in the air for more than 12 hours. "NORAD is on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year".

Long-range aircraft regularly perform flights over the neutral waters of the Arctic, the Atlantic, the Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD, said its "top priority is defending Canada and the United States".

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