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U.S. intercepts four Russian aircraft near Alaska in 'routine' encounter

A Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bomber entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on May 20, 2019. Two F-16 fighter jets intercepted four Russian aircraft, including Tu-95 bombers, on Monday. File photo by UPI
A Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bomber entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on May 20, 2019. Two F-16 fighter jets intercepted four Russian aircraft, including Tu-95 bombers, on Monday. File photo by UPI | License Photo | License Photo

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. military has revealed it was forced to scramble fighter jets to intercept four Russian warplanes near Alaska on Monday in what the Pentagon called "routine" activity.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command announced the encounter Tuesday, saying the Russian aircraft -- which included a fighter jet and a bomber -- flew into a buffer zone of international airspace near Alaska.

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"Russian aircraft remained in international airspace and did not enter American or Canadian sovereign airspace," NORAD said in a release.

"This Russian activity in the North American ADIZ occurs regularly and is not seen as a threat, nor is the activity seen as provocative," the release added. "NORAD had anticipated this Russian activity and, as a result of our planning, was prepared to intercept it."

ADIZ stands for the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone. The U.S. requires aircraft entering the stretch of mostly international airspace, some 200 nautical miles off of the Alaskan coast, to identify themselves in the interest of national security.

In Tuesday's release, NORAD also clarified that the Russian flight activity is in "no way related" to operations "associated with airborne objects over North America during the last two weeks."

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A number of high-altitude unmanned objects, similar to the Chinese surveillance balloon that crossed over U.S. airspace earlier this month, have been shot down over North America, including one off the coast of Alaska.

The Russian aircraft, spotted Monday, included TU-95 BEAR-H bombers and SU-35 fighter aircraft.

In response, NORAD said it quickly scrambled two F-16 fighters, while two F-35A fighters, an E-3 Sentry and two KC-135 Stratotankers were sent to assist.

While Russia's nearly year-long war in Ukraine has heightened tensions, NORAD called Monday's encounter "routine," saying it has intercepted Kremlin military aircraft in the ADIZ about six to seven times a year since 2007.

The U.S. military's last encounter happened in October when two Russian bombers entered the international airspace off the coast of Alaska.

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