A total of four F-22 stealth jets were involved in intercepting the two Russian Tu-95 bombers Tuesday, which had entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, according to NORAD. The zone extends approximately 200 miles off Alaska’s western coast. The bombers returned to the area again, this time accompanied by Su-35 fighter jets and were subsequently intercepted by US aircraft.
“Specifically, two Russian bombers entered the ADIZ and were intercepted by two F-22s while an E-3 provided overall command and control,” NORAD said in the statement. “The bombers exited and then re-entered the Alaskan ADIZ accompanied by two Su-35 fighter jets. NORAD committed an additional two F-22s and E-3 to relieve the initial intercept aircraft.”
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
Tuesday’s interception came hours after four F-22s intercepted four Russian bombers and two Russian Su-35 fighter jets in the ADIZ on Monday.
In both incidents, the intercepted Russian bombers and jets “remained in international airspace and at no time did the aircraft enter the United States or Canadian sovereign airspace,” according to NORAD.
The Russian bomber flights are seen by U.S. military officials as part of Moscow’s effort to train its military for a potential crisis while simultaneously sending a message of strength to adversaries.
These latest intercepts come amid tensions with Russia on a wide range of geopolitical issues and a week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Russian Vladimir Putin in the resort town of Sochi where he warned Russia about interfering in U.S. elections, taking a tougher public line than President Donald Trump on the issue.
U.S. officials say Russian bombers and jets have flown in the area several times a year for the last few years and have similarly been intercepted by U.S. or Canadian jets operating as part of NORAD.
The Russian bomber flights were restarted in 2007 as part of Moscow’s efforts to bolster the capabilities of its armed forces.
By Ryan Browne