Four Russian bombers and two Russian Su-35 jet fighters had to be intercepted by U.S. aircraft on Monday after they entered the Air Defense Identification Zone just off the coast of Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command said in a statement.
U.S. F-22 stealth fighters and an E-3 Airborne Early Warning and Control System "positively identified and intercepted a total of four Tupolev Tu-95 bombers and two Su-35 fighters," as they entered the Air Defense zone which extends 200 miles off Alaska's west coast.
"Two of the Russian bombers were intercepted by two F-22s, and a second group of bombers with Su-35 fighters was intercepted later by two additional F-22s, while the E-3 provided overall surveillance," NORAD said. The "Russian bombers and fighters remained in international airspace and at no time did the aircraft enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace."
The intrusion was confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense which wrote in a tweet Tuesday that the Russian aircraft "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 of the mission.
Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD said in a statement that NORAD's top priority is to defend Canada and the United States from threats.
"Our ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens and vital infrastructure starts with detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft our airspace. We are on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," the general said.
Photo: North American Aerospace Defense Command