Two nuclear-capable Russian bombers were intercepted near Alaska on Thursday, according to the U.S. military.
The two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers were intercepted by two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets and two Canadian CF-18 Hornet jets in the shared U.S. and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ) that extends 200 miles off the west coast of Alaska, according to a North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) statement on Thursday.
Two F-22 and two CF-18 fighter aircraft supported by an E-3 Sentry, a KC-135 Stratotanker and a C-130 Tanker from the NORAD positively identified and intercepted two Tu-95 Bear bombers in the Alaskan and Canadian ADIZ on Aug. 8th. pic.twitter.com/SebmJtMiTu
— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) August 8, 2019
“The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace in the Beaufort Sea and at no time did the aircraft enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace,” NORAD noted.
The U.S. and Canadian jets were accompanied by an E-3 Sentry, a KC-135 Stratotanker, and a C-130 Tanker.
“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States. NORAD operators identified and intercepted the Russian aircraft flying near our nations,” said NORAD Commander Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy.
“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,” O’Shaughnessy added.
NORAD uses a complex array of surveillance tools to identify any aircraft in the ADIZ that could pose a potential threat.
The incident comes just a week after NORAD spotted two Russian Tu-142 anti-submarine aircraft in the Alaskan ADIZ, though U.S. jets did not intercept the aircraft at that time.
“North American Aerospace Defense Command identified a group of two Tu-142 Russian maritime reconnaissance anti-submarine warfare aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019,” NORAD tweeted on Aug. 2.
North American Aerospace Defense Command identified a group of two Tu-142 Russian maritime reconnaissance anti-submarine warfare aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.
— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) August 2, 2019
The U.S. had also intercepted two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers on two separate occasions in late May, also off the Alaskan coast.
In April, O’Shaughnessy spoke before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee where he described Russia’s increasing flight activities near U.S. ADIZ.
“Russian heavy bombers such as the Tu-95MS BEAR and Tu-160 BLACKJACK continue to conduct regular air patrols in the international airspace along the coastlines of other countries to underscore Russia’s capabilities,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Russian bomber crews are demonstrating increasing proficiency in their flight activities, developing a new generation of air crews capable of employing this highly visible implement of Russian deterrence and messaging in peacetime, crisis, and war.”
“Patrols by Russian military aircraft off the coasts of the United States and Canada have grown increasingly complex in recent years. NORAD fighter aircraft routinely intercept Russian military aviation missions inside the U.S. and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zones, and there is no indication that Russian leadership intends to reduce the number of these missions in the near future,” O’Shaughnessy added.
O’Shaughnessy also noted that Russian aircraft and submarines were becoming “armed with long-range cruise missiles designed to evade radar detection” and called on the U.S. to pursue advanced detection and tracking capabilities for the growing threats from Russia and China.