U.S. and Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a Russian bomber flying along the North American coastline on Saturday, the latest in a series of incidents involving the Russian military near the U.S. border.
The incident took place near the Arctic region, officials from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said on Saturday. As Radio Free Europe reported, two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers were seen entering an area that was being patrolled by the Royal Canadian Air Force. That led both American and Canadian officials to send fighter jets to intercept the Russian warplane and escort it out of the area.
The exact area of the encounter was not revealed, but the area being monitored was reportedly 200 miles from the coast of Alaska.
Russian military officials said on Saturday that the bombers did not enter sovereign territory, and added that the aircraft were practicing refueling while flying over neutral waters of the Arctic Ocean.
There was no conflict between the aircraft, but NORAD noted that the scrambling of U.S. and Canadian fighter jets was part of a potential defense from attack.
"NORAD's top priority is defending Canada and the United States," General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander, said in a statement. "Our ability to protect our nations starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace."
This is the latest in a series of incidents in which U.S. and Canadian jets have been scrambled to intercept Russian bombers in the region. In a span of two weeks last September, U.S. aircraft were scrambled twice to intercept Russian aircraft flying over international waters near the coast of Alaska.One, on September 11, included two Russian TU-95 bombers and their escort fighters, SU-35s. As the Hill reported, the TU-95 is a nuclear-capable bomber. Another incident involved the bomber flying without any escort aircraft.
There were other similar incidents in recent years, including another in 2017 and several in the preceding years.
While the U.S. military does not consider such incidents to be threats to national security, national security experts have seen them as tests for American defenses and show increasing aggression from Russia. The country has conducted a similar series of exercises in the Baltic region, which security experts consider to be a test of NATO defenses amid fears that Russia could one day strike in the region as it had in Ukraine.