The U.S. military intercepted six Russian military jets near Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed on Friday.
American F-22 fighter jets and KC-135 refueling aircraft intercepted several groups of Russian Tu-142 patrol jets near the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, NORAD said in a statement.
The jets came within 50 miles of the Alaskan shore but remained within international airspace, the agency said.
“Our northern approaches have had an increase in foreign military activity as our competitors continue to expand their military presence and probe our defenses,” NORAD commander Gen. Glen VanHerck said in a statement. “This year, we’ve conducted more than a dozen intercepts, the most in recent years. The importance of our continued efforts to project air defense operations in and through the north has never been more apparent.”
Also on Thursday, U.S. Northern Command wrote that a Russian submarine was detected near Alaska.
“The current Russian maritime activity is taking place in international waters well outside the U.S. territorial sea,” Northern Command wrote. “We have not received any requests for assistance from the Russian Navy or other mariners in the area.”
“We are holding such massive drills there for the first time ever,” Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov said in a statement, saying that about 50 warships and 40 planes were partaking in the exercise near the Bering Sea, which separates Russia’s Far East and Alaska.
“We are building up our forces to ensure the economic development of the region,” he said. “We are getting used to the Arctic spaces.”
Russian planes have flown near the Alaskan coast several times this year, prompting U.S. officials to scramble jets for an interception.
In June, F-22 planes and a KC-135 intercepted two Russian Il-38, which were also flying through the Alaskan air defense zone.
“The Russian aircraft came within 50 miles of Unimak Island along the Aleutian island chain, spending approx. four hours in the ADIZ before exiting. The Il-38s remained in international airspace and at no time did the aircraft enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace,” NORAD said at the time.
“For the fifth time this month, NORAD has demonstrated our readiness and ability to defend the homeland by intercepting Russian military aircraft entering our ADIZ,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the head of NORAD, in a statement in late June.
Earlier this week, U.S. officials confirmed that an American military vehicle was involved with a collision with a Russian military vehicle in Syria. Both sides blamed one another for the incident.