Two Russian bombers were intercepted flying off the coast of Alaska this week with U.S. fighter jets monitoring the aircraft until they left the airspace in an act that has raised tension between the nations.
The incident comes as tensions between the U.S. and Russia are on the rise, with the nations coming into conflict through a growing proxy war in Syria and U.S.-led sanctions against Russia. As AL.com reported, the U.S. F-22 stealth bombers intercepted the two Russian bombers on Friday morning. Though the Russian TU-95 Bears remained in international airspace, they flew into what is known as the Air Defense Identification Zone, CNN reported.
U.S. officials noted that the U.S. fighter jets visually identified the long-range bombers and flew alongside them until the bombers left the airspace.
This is not the first time that Russian bombers have buzzed other nations. Throughout 2014, as the conflict with Ukraine ramped up, Russia underwent a series of military exercises that experts believed were meant to test the defenses of NATO allies. This included a number of times that Russian bombers were sent to the edge of another country’s air space.
One of those happened in September of that year when Russian bombers came within miles of the Canadian coast. The bombers were the same ones used in this week’s incident near the Alaskan coast.
The following month, U.S. Air Force officials warned that Russian bombers appeared to be conducting nuclear strike drills over the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea. Within a 24-hour period, Russia sent 19 combat aircraft to test NATO defenses and also test-launched a ballistic missile north of Sweden.
In total, there were more than 100 such incidents in 2014, a threefold increase over the previous year. Russia has continued to conduct these military exercises and has also flexed its cyber warfare muscles as well, including allegations of interference in the Brexit vote and the 2016 U.S. election.
Tensions between the United States and Russia remain high, and many see the civil war in Syria as a proxy war, with the countries supporting opposing sides of the conflict. The United States under Barack Obama also took the lead on leveling sanctions on Russia for election interference and Russia’s role in the war in Ukraine.