NORAD(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Air Force F-22 fighters intercepted six Russian aircraft that entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Monday.
The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace and never entered U.S. airspace, but it’s the first time since last September that Russian aircraft have flown this close to Alaska.
“Two pairs of F-22s and an E-3 Airborne Early Warning and Control System from North American Aerospace Defense Command positively identified and intercepted a total of four Tupolev Tu-95 bombers and two Su-35 fighters entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on May 20,” according to a NORAD statement.
An ADIZ is airspace over land or water that stretches 200 miles from the coastline and is monitored in the interest of national security. Territorial airspace begins 12 miles from the coastline. NORAD, a joint U.S.-Canadian military command sends military aircraft to identify any unidentified aircraft transiting through the American or Canadian ADIZ’s.
“Two of the Russian bombers were intercepted by two F-22s, and a second group of bombers with Su-35 fighters was intercepted later by two additional F-22s, while the E-3 provided overall surveillance,” the statement said. “The Russian bombers and fighters remained in international airspace and at no time did the aircraft enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace.”
The Russian flights are the first to occur close to Alaska since January when Russian bombers entered Canada’s ADIZ and were intercepted by both Canadian and U.S. aircraft.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in its own statement that “Four Tu-95ms strategic missile carriers of the Russian Aerospace Forces made scheduled sorties over the neutral waters of the Chukotka, Bering and Okhotsk seas, as well as along the western coast of Alaska and the northern coast of the Aleutian Islands.”
“At certain stages of the route, Russian aircraft were escorted by F-22 fighter jets of the USAF,” according to the statement. “The total flight time exceeded 12 hours.”
“All flights of the Russian Air and Space Force are carried out in strict accordance with the International Airspace Management System without violating the borders of other states,” it added.
It takes a bit of effort for the Russian military to undertake these long-range bomber missions to far eastern Russia and the waters off of Alaska. Russia’s long-range bomber fleet is positioned in central and western Russia, meaning the bombers and their maintenance teams are flown to eastern Russian airbases so they can undertake these types of missions.
Over the last two years, Russian missions close to Alaska have occurred two to three times a year.
Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.