Aug. 9 (UPI) — U.S. and Canadian fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers near the Alaskan coast Thursday, North American military officials said.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command — also identified by the acronym NORAD — said two F-22 and two CF-18 fighter jets intercepted the two Russian Tu-95 bombers as they entered the Alaskan and Canadian air defense identification zones. An E-3 Sentry, a C-130 tanker and a KC-135 air-to-air refueling aircraft assisted.
The zones extend about 200 miles off the Alaskan and Canadian coasts. At no time did any of the Russian aircraft enter U.S. or Canadian airspace, NORAD said.
“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” said Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander. “NORAD operators identified and intercepted the Russian aircraft flying near our nations.
“Whether responding to violators of restricted airspace domestically or identifying and intercepting foreign military aircraft, NORAD is on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
Russia’s state-run news agency, Tass, reported the two bombers conducted flights over the Bering Sea on Thursday as part of its Ocean Shield 2019 exercise. The Defense Ministry said it was in compliance with international rules for use of airspace.
NORAD said it has intercepted an average of six or seven Russian planes in the Alaska zone each year since 2007. The forces intercepted Russian aircraft on two back-to-back days in May.