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Russian bombers fly off Alaskan coast; US fighter jets intercept

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 555th Fighter Squadron takes off at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Dec. 15, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)
October 18, 2022

Two Russian bombers were intercepted by U.S. fighters in international airspace near Alaska on Monday, Oct. 17, NORAD announced Tuesday.

Two U.S. F-16 fighters intercepted, or matched speeds and headings with, two Russian Tu-95 Bear-H bombers in the Air Defense Identification Zone, a section of closely monitored, but neutral airspace surrounding the U.S. and Canada. 

NORAD said the bombers were “not seen as a threat” or “as provocative,” despite recent weeks of escalating tensions over Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

NORAD’s statement did not clarify what happened after the interception, but said foreign aircraft are escorted from the ADIZ “as necessary.”

Russia generally conducts a nuclear exercise in October, but U.S. officials have not heard anything about this year’s plans, according to Reuters.

Russian warplanes are often intercepted on the edges of American airspace, including on the most recent Sept. 11 anniversary. The month prior, NORAD spotted two Russian spy planes off the Alaskan coast.

Russian jets have likewise escorted U.S. bombers out of that country’s periphery.

NORAD commander and U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck said 2020 saw NORAD respond to “more Russian military flights off the coast of Alaska than we’ve seen in any year since the end of the Cold War.”

“We’re back in the peer competition,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Clearly, Russia is trying to reassert on a global stage their influence and their capabilities.”

In the statement, NORAD said it uses “a layered defense network of satellites, ground-based radars, airborne radar and fighter aircraft to track and identify aircraft and inform appropriate actions.”

“We remain ready to employ a number of response options in defense of North America and Arctic sovereignty,” the statement reads.