Alaska Air National Guard reports first incursion of Russian military planes since January

An F-15 Eagle from the 12th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, flies next to a Russian Tu-95 Bear Bomber Sept. 28 during a Russian exercise near the west coast of Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Members of an Alaska Air National Guard unit at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson detected and tracked five Russian aircraft that flew near Alaska last week.

The Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing identified the Russian aircraft on Thursday when they entered international airspace off Alaska.

A statement issued by the wing Monday says its Air Defense Squadron continued tracking the aircraft as they flew through the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, then relayed that information to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.

NORAD said the planes entered the zone around 6 p.m. Thursday and left about 90 minutes later. The agency didn’t say from which direction the planes approached Alaska.

The Air National Guard’s statement said the 176th Air Defense Squadron’s surveillance and weapons teams identified the Russian aircraft with help from the JBER-based 611th Air Operations Center. The Russian formation included an AWACS-type reconnaissance and control plane, two Su-35 Flanker jet fighters and two Tu-95 Bear long-range bombers.

It’s unclear whether U.S. fighters were scrambled to escort the Russian aircraft through the identification zone. That’s what the Air Force did more than dozen times last year to intercept more than 60 Russian planes that had entered the identification zone off Alaska and Canada.

Observers say last week’s Russian aircraft incursion off Alaska was the first since January.

Lt. Gen. David Krumm, who heads the Alaskan Command, said that was the busiest spate of Russian aircraft incursions since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Lt. Gen. David Krumm’s name. It is David Krumm, not David Crumm.

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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