USAF Intercepts Russian Bombers 50 Miles Off California Coast

Dustin Wicksell

USAF jets scrambled earlier this week when four Russian bombers triggered American air defense systems by coming within 50 miles of the Pacific coastline. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed Wednesday that United States air defenses were deployed twice on Monday in response to four Russian Tu-95 Bear H strategic bombers.

The first incursion began Monday at 4:30 pm Pacific time when the nuclear-capable bombers approached the western Aleutian islands, MailOnline reports. Two USAF F-22 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the bombers, which were also supported by two IL-78 aerial refueling tankers, after they were detected on radar. After being intercepted, two of the planes turned west, heading back toward the Russian far east, while the remaining pair headed southeast.

At 9:30 pm, the remaining two bombers triggered air defenses once again when they approached the U.S. northern air defense zone off the coast of Northern California. Two F-15 fighter jets were scrambled for the second incursion, intercepting the bombers before they also turned west.

According to defense officials, the flight of bombers, which is believed to be based at the Russian strategic base near Anadyr, Russia, appeared to be engaged in a training mission. Officials said the planes "acted professionally," pointing out that such an exercise is not uncommon for this time of the year. Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a NORAD spokesman, said that Russian forces "typically do long range aviation training in the summer and it is not unusual for them to be more active during this time," adding that the bombers did not enter U.S. territorial airspace.

The incursion is already viewed as saber-rattling on the part of Russia, following heightened tensions amid Russia's military annexation of Ukraine's Crimea. According to The Washington Free Beacon, Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Texas), who is a member of the armed services committee, said, "Putin is doing this specifically to try to taunt the U.S. and exercise, at least in the reported world, some sort of saber-rattling, muscle-flexing kind of nonsense. Truth of the matter is we would have squashed either one of those [bombers] like baby seals." Calling the incursions "intentional provocations," Conaway said that he expects Russia will engage in similar actions in the future.

The incursions are not the first that Russian forces have undertaken in recent months. As The Inquisitr reported, two Tu-95 bombers encroached on Dutch, Danish, and British airspace in April, leading those countries to scramble their own fighters. Intrusions by Russian air forces have been on the rise in recent years, with bombers also making incursions in Asia and Guam. The incident mirrors an earlier one, when Russian bombers infringed on Alaskan airspace last year.

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