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Russian warplanes intercepted near Alaska for 2nd day in a row

Two F-35 Lightning II fighter jets (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Ben Mota)
February 16, 2023

Four Russian military aircraft were intercepted by U.S. fighter jets near Alaska for the second day in a row on Tuesday, with NORAD continuing to describe the interactions as “routine.”

The Russian planes – which included bomber and fighter aircraft – were intercepted by two F-35 fighter jets as they approached the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, a large swath of closely-monitored airspace off the coast of the state, NORAD said in a statement released to American Military News.

An interception occurs when one aircraft moves next to another to identify it and establish communications. NORAD said it “escorts” foreign aircraft out of air defense identification zones as necessary.

The encounter came the same day that NORAD acknowledged it had intercepted another group of Russian warplanes near the Alaskan ADIZ just one day prior.

The latest group included TU-95 BEAR-H bombers and SU-30 and SU-35 fighters, but it is unclear how many of each. The previous group of four aircraft consisted of TU-95 BEAR-H bombers and SU-35 fighters.

NORAD has described both encounters as “routine” and unrelated to the three unidentified objects recently shot down in North American airspace.

This type of Russian activity near air defense zones “occurs regularly and is not seen as a threat, nor is the activity seen as provocative,” NORAD said, adding that it had anticipated the activity and was prepared to intercept.

In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered strategic bomber planes to make long-range patrols on a regular basis for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since then, the average year has seen about six-to-seven interceptions of Russian military aircraft in the North American ADIZ, according to NORAD. 

Two Russian bombers were intercepted in the Alaskan ADIZ in October. Prior to that, NORAD tracked Russian aircraft within air defense identification zones on Sept. 11, 2022 and encountered Russian spy planes in the Alaskan ADIZ over two days in August.

NORAD commander Gen. Glen VanHerck has said that 2020 saw “more Russian military flights off the coast of Alaska than we’ve seen in any year since the end of the Cold War,” adding: “Russia is trying to reassert on a global stage their influence and their capabilities.”

Since 2007, the most Russian military interceptions in a single year has been 15, and the fewest has been zero, according to NORAD.

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.