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Air Force intercepts Russian bombers, fighter escorts near Alaska

Russian Tu-95 bombers and Su-35 fighters were intercepted in international airspace west of Alaska, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command.

COURTESY OF NORAD

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 13, 2018

Air Force F-22 Raptors intercepted a pair of Russian bombers and their fighter escorts this week near Alaska, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The Tu-95 “Bear” bombers and a pair of Su-35 “Flanker” fighters — advanced aircraft that entered the Russian arsenal in 2014 — were discovered in international airspace west of Alaska at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, NORAD said in a statement Wednesday.

They did not fly into U.S. or Canadian airspace.

“The homeland is no longer a sanctuary and the ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching US and Canadian airspace,” NORAD commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said in the statement.

“NORAD employs a layered defense network of radars, satellites, as well as fighters to identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response,” he added.

On Sept. 1, F-22s intercepted two Russian bombers that crossed into the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone south of the Aleutian Islands.

On May 11, U.S. jets shadowed a pair of Tu-95s as they flew in the zone, which extends 200 miles from the coast, in the Bering Sea north of the Aleutians.

Such intercepts have happened about 60 times between 2007 and 2017, The New York Times reported last year.

The maneuvers come as Russian forces participate in what The Associated Press reported is the nation’s largest-ever military exercise. The weeklong Vostok (East) 2018 drills launched Tuesday span Siberia and the Far East, the Arctic and the Pacific oceans.

The drills involve nearly 300,000 Russian troops along with 1,000 Russian aircraft, 36,000 tanks and other combat vehicles, the news agency said.

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1

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