By Suzie Liu
(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — American planes intercepted two Russian TU-95 bombers accompanied by two SU-35 fighters that flew close to the Alaska coast Tuesday night, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
A U.S. official said the Russian aircraft had flown within 50 nautical miles of the Alaska coastline. American territorial airspace begins 12 nautical miles from shore.
The intercept occurred around 5 p.m. local time, according to Capt. Scott Miller, a NORAD spokesman.
Two Russian TU-95 “Bear” bombers were accompanied by two SU-35 “Flanker” fighter aircraft as they entered the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that stretches 200 miles from the U.S. coastline. The U.S. requires aircraft to identify themselves when they enter the Alaska ADIZ.
The Russian aircraft were always in international airspace. A U.S. official said the Russian aircraft had come as close as 50 miles to the Alaska coastline before turning back.
The four Russian aircraft were intercepted by two F-22 Raptor fighters that were already airborne on a previously scheduled flight.
Miller described the interaction with the Russian aircraft as “professional,” which has historically been the case in encounters with Russian military aircraft off of Alaska.
The last time Russian fighter aircraft flew alongside Russian bombers was in 2014, the peak year for Russian military flights near Alaska. Miller said it’s not uncommon for the Russian military to use a combination of aircraft for training flights near Alaska.
But those flights ceased in 2015 after a stand-down of Russia’s TU-95 long range bomber fleet following a series of fatal crashes.
The flights resumed in April, when Russian military aircraft flew four flights near Alaska in four consecutive days during the week of April 17.
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Source:: National News