- Two sets of two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers, one of which was escorted by a pair of Su-35 fighter jets, were intercepted off the coast of Alaska on Monday.
- Four US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters supported by an E-3 Sentry aircraft were sent out to shadow the Russian aircraft after they entered the Alaskan Air Defence Identification Zone.
- The Russian bomber flights came just two months after the Kremlin criticised the US for flying B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers near Russia during training with European allies and partners.
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US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two sets of two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers, one of which was accompanied by two Su-35 fighter escorts, off the coast of Alaska on Monday, according to North American Aerospace Defence Command.
The Russian Defence Ministry announced Tuesday that Russian Tu-95MS bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, conducted an observation flight Monday near the western coast of Alaska, adding that at certain points during the 12-hour flight the bombers and their escort fighters were shadowed by US F-22s, Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency reported.
It is unclear why the Russians sent so many bombers near US air defences, and NORAD was unable to say whether the Russian bombers were armed. It is also unclear why such bombers were used at all, as observation is not the traditional role of the large, four-engine, propeller-powered bombers, which are essentially heavy cruise-missile platforms.
NORAD fighters intercepted Russian bombers+fighters entering Alaskan ADIZ May 20. 2x Tu-95s were intercepted by 2x F-22s; a second group of 2x Tu-95+2x Su-35 was intercepted later by 2 more F-22’s; NORAD E-3 provided overall surveillance. The aircraft remained in int'l airspace pic.twitter.com/VrNuSWFOQm
— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) May 21, 2019
NORAD sent out four F-22s, two for each intercept, to intercept the Russian aircraft after they entered the Alaskan Air Defence Identification Zone. An E-3 Sentry provided surveillance during the intercepts. The Russian bombers remained in international airspace, NORAD said in a statement.
“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD, said. “Our ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching US and Canadian airspace.”
The bomber flights Monday came roughly two months after Russia accused the US of unnecessarily stirring up tensions between the countries by flying B-52H Stratofortress bombers near Russia for training with regional partners.
“Such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters at the time.”On the contrary, they create additional tensions.”
The US military, however, stressed that the training missions, which included simulated bombing runs, were necessary to “deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners.”
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