U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Russian bombers flying near Alaska two separate times late Tuesday night, marking the third and fourth intercepts in a single week.
“NORAD F-22 Raptors, supported by KC-135 Stratotankers and an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System, successfully completed two intercepts of Russian bomber aircraft formations entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone last night,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a tweet on Wednesday morning.
NORAD said the first formation included two Tu-95 nuclear-capable bombers, two Su-35 fighter jets, and an A-50 warning and control aircraft. The second formation included two Tu-95 bombers and one A-50.
The Russian Defense Ministry posted a video online of their warplanes taking the planned flight and being intercepted by the U.S. fighter jets.
The U.S. has intercepted Russian warplanes eight times so far in 2020, with the last four of them occurring in the past week alone, indicating a significant increase in Russian air activity near the U.S.
“For the eighth time this year, Russian military aircraft have penetrated our Canadian or Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zones and each and every time NORAD forces were ready to meet this challenge,” said General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD Commander.
The Russian warplanes came within 36 miles of U.S. territory, but remained in international airspace while flying through the Bering Strait in the Pacific Ocean. The Bering Strait is also the area marking the closest point between U.S. and Russian borders, with just 55 miles between them.
Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the Main Operations Directorate of Russia’s Armed Forces General Staff claimed that Russia had observed increased activity by the U.S. and its NATO allies near Russian territory, according to Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency. Rudskoy did not indicate whether or not the alleged U.S. activity was the reason for Russia’s increased activity near the U.S.
Just last Wednesday, U.S. F-22 Raptor fighter jets intercepted two Russian bomber formations, comprised of Russian Tu-95 bombers, Su-35 fighter jets, and A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, just 30 miles from Alaska.
The Russian Defense Ministry had posted a video of their bombers taking off and later being intercepted.