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US jets intercept Russian bombers near Alaska during huge war games: officials

A U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet escorts a Russian TU-95 bomber. (NORAD and U.S. Northcom/Released)
September 12, 2018

For an unusual second time in a week, two Russian bombers were spotted near Alaska.

Two Russian TU-95MS “Bear” bombers flew near Alaska on Sept. 11, before they were intercepted and escorted by two U.S. Air Force F-22 “Raptor” fighter jets, according to a North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) statement Wednesday evening.

“The Russian Bombers intercepted west of mainland Alaska were accompanied by two Russian Su-35 ‘Flanker’ fighter jets,” the statement said.

The incident happened approximately at 10 p.m. on Tuesday. The Russian bombers didn’t enter U.S. airspace, instead staying in international skies.

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“The homeland is no longer a sanctuary and the ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander, said in the statement. “NORAD employs a layered defense network of radars, satellites, as well as fighters to identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response.”

A translated tweet by the Russian Ministry of Defense said the bombers were carrying out “planned flights on the neutral waters of the Barents seas, Chukotka, Eastern Siberia and the Arctic Ocean.” The tweet was accompanied by a video of the bombers taking off from a Russian airbase.

Just last week, a pair of U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets also intercepted two Russian TU-95 nuclear-capable bombers near Alaska in an identical incident. Several other incidents took place earlier this year, raising suspicion over the sudden frequency.

The latest incident occurred amid tensions of the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as the opening day of Russia’s massive week-long Vostok-18 military exercise.

Russia’s military exercise involves “300,000 troops, more than 1,000 planes, helicopters and drones, up to 80 combat and logistic ships and up to 36,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles,” according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

It is the largest military exercise carried out by Russia since 1981, and involves China and Mongolia. China sent approximately 4,000 troops, 900 combat vehicles, and 30 aircraft, according to The Mirror.

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Shoigu declared that China would be a routine participant in the annual games, in which troops conduct a mock invasion across a 5,000-mile battlefield.

The exercise and its participants leave some questioning whether or not it is intended as a warning to the U.S.