April 19 (UPI) — U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers near Alaska and flew alongside them for 12 minutes before the Russian planes reversed course, U.S. officials said.
The Tu-95 “Bear” bombers, capable of carrying nuclear bombs, breached the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Monday night, an area around the perimeter of the United States and Canada in which aircraft must identify their course and destination. Although the planes stayed in international airspace, they passed within 100 miles of Alaska’s Kodiak Islands.
While Russians bombers often fly near the U.S. coast, it is the first time during the administration of President Donald Trump that they have flown so close. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week in Moscow that U.S.-Russia relations were at a “low point.”
The Russian planes flew about 280 miles southwest of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, an air base in Anchorage, which scrambled two F-22 fighter planes and an E-3 airborne early warning plane to intercept the Russian aircraft. After the Russian planes left the area, U.S, officials reported that although there no bridge-to-bridge communication between the U.S. and Russian planes, the Russians acted “very professionally.”
Neither the Pentagon nor the Russian Defense Ministry commented on the incident.