US Fighter Planes Intercept Russian Bombers Near Alaska, Says NORAD

May 21, 2019 Updated: May 21, 2019

U.S. fighter planes intercepted Russian bombers and fighters that entered Alaska’s airspace on May 20, said the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on May 21.

NORAD said that Tupolev Tu-95 bombers and Su-35 fighters were intercepted by two F-22 fighter planes as they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.

Later, two Tu-95s and two Su-35s were intercepted by two more F-22 fighter jets while a NORAD E-3 aircraft provided surveillance, said NORAD. The Russian planes were “positively identified,” the agency wrote.

As a result, the Russian aircraft remained in international airspace.

In a later statement, NORAD said its “ability to deter and defeat threats” begins with “detecting, tracking, and positively identifying” non-American aircraft in U.S. airspace.

“We are on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” the statement continued.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the incident in a tweet on May 20.

The ministry said its 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 F22 fighter jets of the USAF. The total flight time exceeded 12 hours,” the ministry said in a statement. “Long-range pilots make regular flights over neutral waters of the Arctic, North Atlantic, Black and Caspian seas, and Pacific Ocean.”

The ministry claimed that the flights were “carried out in strict accordance with the International Airspace Management System without violating the borders of other states.”

Other details about the incident were not provided.

In January, U.S. and Canadian fighter planes were scrambled to escort Russian jets near the North American coastline.

The North American Aerospace Defence Command says two F-22 and two CF-18 fighter jets identified two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers. The Russian planes were said to be entering an area patrolled by the Royal Canadian Air Force at the time, The Associated Press reported.

General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander, said in a statement that “NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States. “Our ability to protect our nations starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace,” O’Shaughnessy said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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