Russian long-range bomber planes flew just off the northwest coast of Canada on Monday, the same day that 28 Russian jets and bomber planes were intercepted over the Baltic Sea. Canadian F-18 Hornet fighters were among the NATO jets that intercepted those planes over the Baltic.
But the Russian bombers also put the F-18 pilots at work closer to home, as the Russian bomber planes were caught on what Canadian defense officials believe was an information-gathering mission.
Two Canadian F-18 Hornets scrambled to intercept a pair of Russian Tuplelov Tu-95 bombers flying in international airspace over the Beaufort Sea off of the Canadian coastline north of Alaska, in the Arctic Ocean. The Canadian jets “intercepted and visually identified” the Russian bomber planes, according to a statement from Canada’s Defense Ministry.
Until recently, and at least since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, Russian bomber planes and other missions off the coastlines of Canada and the United States were rare, said a Canadian defense official, speaking to Canada’s QMI Agency, a Montreal-based news organization.
“Since 2007, NORAD fighters have conducted intercepts about five times per year in the U.S. or Canadian Air Defence Identification Zones,” the official told QMI. “Such unannounced operations by strategic bombers near the U.S. and Canada are unwanted, provocative and potentially destabilizing.”
In November, Russia announced that it would send long-range bombers to patrol areas off of the United States, even penetrating into the Gulf of Mexico.
The large number of Russian jets and bombers skirting and even making incursions into NATO air space in the Baltic region has also reached record numbers for the post-Cold War era this year. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that the dramatic rise in Russian flights was simply a response to NATO and the United States sending their own planes to buzz the Russian coastline.
“Our U.S. partners continued to fly their nuclear aircraft along their previous routes, including to areas close to our borders. Therefore several years ago, seeing no positive developments and no one ready to meet us halfway, we resumed strategic air patrols to remote areas,” Putin said in a November interview with German television.
After the Cold War, the entire Russian air force was mothballed, but the Russians took to the skies again in 2007, and this year has resumed full-scale, Cold War-level operations, including flying the propellor-powered Tu-95 bombers, like the one pictured above, which were introduced in 1952, the early stages of the Cold War.