A NORAD F-22 fighter plane intercepted a Russian Tu-95 bomber near Alaska on Tuesday. The two incidents on Tuesday marked the seventh and eighth such intercepts in 2020. Photo courtesy of NORAD
June 17 (UPI) -- U.S. fighter planes intercepted eight Russian military aircraft flying near Alaska in two separate incidents, NORAD announced Wednesday.
The intercepts, late Tuesday, mark the third and fourth such incidents in the past week, and the seventh and eighth in 2020, indicating an increase in Russian air activity on the U.S. border.
"NORAD F-22 Raptors, supported by KC-135 Stratotankers and an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System, successfully completed two intercepts of Russian bomber aircraft formations entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone last night," NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] said in a series of Twitter messages. "The Russian military aircraft came within 32 nautical miles of Alaskan shores; however, remained in international airspace and at no time did they enter United States sovereign airspace."
The first formation involved two Tu-95 bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles; two Su-35 fighter planes; and an A-50 warning and control plane. The second included two Tu-95s and one A-50.
"For the eighth time this year, Russian military aircraft have penetrated our Canadian or Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zones and each and every time NORAD forces were ready to meet this challenge," Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, NORAD commander, later said. "Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, NORAD constantly monitors the northern approaches to our nations and our operations make it clear that we will conduct homeland defense efforts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year."
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its planes were on an 11-hour "planned flight over international waters of the Chukchi, Bering and Okhotsk seas, as well as the northern part of the Pacific Ocean." It also provided a brief video of one of the intercepts.
The 55-mile-wide Bering Strait separates Russia and Alaska.
"At certain stages of the route, Russian aircraft were escorted by F-22 fighters of the USAF," the ministry added, but noted that "all flights of the Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft are carried out in strict compliance with the international laws on the use of airspace."
The United States regards its land, and 12 miles of any surrounding sea space, as sovereign territory.