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6 Russian warplanes enter South Korean air defense zone as South Korea scrambles fighter jets

An F-15K Slam Eagle, Republic of Korea Air Forces', 11th A South Korean air force F-15K Slam Eagle from the 11th Tactical Fighter Wing takes off while participating in the Buddy Wing Exercise March 10 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force poto/Senior Airman Angela Ruiz)
October 22, 2019

South Korea sent its fighter jets to warn Russian warplanes who encroached South Korea’s air defense zone on Tuesday.

Over several hours, Russian bombers and other warplanes – six total aircraft – entered the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) for the 20th time this year, ignoring the unique protocol required for foreign aircraft to identify themselves, Reuters reported.

“Our military urgently dispatched fighter jets to track and monitor the aircraft and broadcast warning messages,” the South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the Russian strategic bombers didn’t violate foreign borders during flights, which it said were scheduled over neutral waters around Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the East China Sea.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the flights consisted of two Tu-95MS strategic carriers, and a Su-35S and A-50 long-range radar patrol and guidance aircraft.

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It also acknowledged that a pair of South Korean F-15 and F-16 fighter jets escorted the Russian aircraft for part of its route, as well as F-2 Japanese fighter jets.

“All flights of the Russian Air and Space Force are carried out in strict accordance with the International Airspace Management System without violating the borders of other states,” the Defense Ministry statement said.

In July, South Korea had claimed that it was forced to fire “hundreds of warning shots” at a Russian A-50 military aircraft that violated South Korea’s airspace for the first time, CNBC reported at the time.

On the same day, two Russian Tu-95 bombers and two Chinese H-6 bombers had crossed the KADIZ, and Russia later said it didn’t recognize the zone. Instead, the Defense Ministry blamed South Korea for its two F-16 fighter jets demonstrating “unprofessional maneuvers” when allegedly failing to communicate and crossing in front of the Russian aircraft.

“We take a very grave view of this situation and, if it is repeated, we will take even stronger action,” South Korea’s top security adviser, Chung Eui-yong said after the incident.

Russia also sent two of its Tu-160 Blackjack long-range bombers and additional support aircraft, an Ilyushin Il-62 airliner and an Antonov An-124 Condor heavy transport plane, to South Africa on Tuesday after the nation invited Russia for a military partnership. The deployment is considered unprecedented.

“The purpose of the visit is the development of bilateral military cooperation and the development of issues of interaction between the Russian Aerospace Forces and the South African air force,” a Defense Ministry statement said. “The event will contribute to improving the combat training of the aircrew of the two countries.”