For the second time since the beginning of September, Air Force F-22 Raptors like the one above were scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft flying over international waters close to United States airspace off the coast of Alaska.
The most recent incident occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2018, and involved two Russian TU-95 bombers and their escort fighters, SU-35s. The TU-95 is a nuclear-capable bomber, according to The Hill. The previous incident occurred on September 1, took place near the Aleutian Islands, and did not involve escort aircraft.Such events are common, The Hill states, and the U.S. military does not see them as a threat to national sovereignty or interests. The American jets shadowed the Russian aircraft for approximately 40 minutes, according to NBC News, but the foreign aircraft never officially entered American airspace, remaining instead in the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
The ADIZ was created by the United States after World War II as a watch zone and extends approximately 200 miles into the ocean in what is technically international airspace. Because the ADIZ was created unilaterally by the United States, it is not binding internationally, and there are no consequences for foreign aircraft operating within it as long as they identify themselves and share their flight path. Other countries have created similar non-binding buffer zones in their airspace.
NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, issued the notice that Tuesday's event had taken place, and issued the following statement to NBC News.
"Homeland defense is NORAD's top priority. The identiﬁcation and monitoring of aircraft entering a U.S. or Canadian Air Defense identiﬁcation Zone demonstrates how NORAD executes its aerospace warning and aerospace control missions for the United States and Canada."NBC News points out that it's not uncommon for these events to occur, and Russian aircraft have been accused several times of violating the airspace of America's NATO allies and flying dangerously close to U.S. ships and aircraft in the Black Sea.
Russia and China are currently participating in military games along their shared border, but it's not clear whether this incident is related. The Hill also reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin said the following in a statement related to the war games.
Russia is a peaceful nation [and it must] be ready to protect its sovereignty, security and national interests, and, if necessary, support our allies.Later in the statement, Putin said he thought the games successfully demonstrated Russia's ability to "deflect potential military threats."