For the second consecutive day, U.S. fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a Russian bomber flying near the coast of Alaska in what appears to be an escalation of Russian testing of American defenses.
The incidents took place this week in the international skies off the coast of Alaska, NBC News reported. A pair of F-22 fighter jets were sent along with a surveillance craft to follow two Tu-95 bombers and two Su-35 fighter jets. The Russian aircraft never actually entered American airspace but did reach a buffer zone known as the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone that triggers a response from the U.S.
The Russian incursions are a semi-regular occurrence, officials from the North American Aerospace Defense Command said.
“This is the fourth and fifth intercepts this year and the second day in a row that Russian bombers have flown into the Alaskan ADIZ,” according to NORAD, which intercepts Russian aircraft between six and seven times a year on average.
Another incident took place back in January when both American and Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a Russian bomber flying along the North American coastline.
As Radio Free Europe reported, two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers entered an area that is patrolled by the Royal Canadian Air Force. In response, both American and Canadian officials sent fighter jets to intercept the Russian warplane and follow as it left the area. The exact location of the incident was not revealed, but it also took place somewhere off the coast of Alaska.
There was no actual contact between the aircraft, but officials said they responded accordingly as if it had been a threat.
“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.”
The incursions by Russia have also taken place near the borders of NATO countries, with defense experts saying that Russia uses the incidents to test the defenses of neighboring countries, gauging reaction times and noting exactly what kind of aircraft are used to intercept the bombers. The incidents in Europe have served to raise tensions with many of Russia’s neighbors, especially the Baltic states.
Russian bomber flights off Alaska Monday and Tuesday coincide with large U.S. military exercise in Alaska involving more than 250 fighter jets and aircraft, 10,000 troops and the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt off the coast. (Photos: DoD) pic.twitter.com/g5VDdi1S4a— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) May 22, 2019
The Russian ministry of defense also responded to the first of the two incidents that took place this week, releasing a statement saying that the plans were taking part in scheduled training exercises.