Six Russian planes that came suspiciously close to the U.S. airspace off the Alaska coast were intercepted by two U.S. jets, reports CNN. The report also mentions the interception of two other Russian planes that approached the Canadian airspace – which were subsequently intercepted by two Canadian military planes.
The six Russian planes that were intercepted included two IL-78 refueling tankers, two Mig-31 fighter jets and two Russian Bear long-range bombers. All six aircraft were intercepted by two F-22 fighters based out of Alaska. According to Captain Jeff Davis of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, the six Russian planes were within 55 nautical miles of the Alaskan coastline when they were intercepted by the U.S. Air Force. Following their interception, all six aircraft returned to Russia. The Canadian Air Force also intercepted two Russian Bear long-range bombers using two of its CF-18 fighter jets.
While the Russian planes did enter the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) west of Alaska as well as the Canadian ADIZ, the NORAD made it clear in a statement that they did not at any point violate the U.S. or the Canadian Airspace. The ADIZ is an airspace zone that extends nearly 200 miles from the coastline of a nation and falls within the international airspace.
While there has been no official communication regarding the reason for the Russian planes to approach this close to the U.S. airspace, it is being speculated that this could be a reaction by Russia to show its displeasure over the visit of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to Canada and the United States. President Poroshenko was in Canada on Wednesday and Thursday. He met President Obama – who promised him $46 million in aid for Ukraine’s ongoing fight against pro-Russian militants. Pentagon Press Secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby however told CNN that he did not see the interception of the Russian planes to have any linkage to President Porshenko’s visit. He however added that the U.S. establishment does take these things seriously and that they would convey their concerns to “our friends in Moscow.”
This is not the first time that NORAD jets have intercepted Russian planes in the region. The CNN report mentions that in the past five years alone, there have been at least 50 interceptions of Russian planes reported from the region.
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