U.S. fighter jets intercept, escort Russian aircraft off Alaska’s coast

a Russian aircraft intercept
On Thursday, F-22 fighter jets like this one pursuing a Russian Tu-95 bomber in 2020 again intercepted a Russian aircraft formation off Alaska’s coast. (NORAD/DVIDS)

U.S. fighter jets intercepted six Russian aircraft flying off Alaska’s coasts again last week, and accompanied them as they passed through the international airspace.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command says its Alaska NORAD Region office detected, identified and tracked the Russian aircraft Thursday as they were flying through the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ.

an F-16
NORAD dispatched F-16s like this one based at Eielson Air Force Base assisted in Thursday’s intercept, along with an AWACS reconnaissance plane and air tanker. (David Phaff/354th Fighter Wing/DVIDS)

A NORAD news release issued Saturday says the Russian formation included Tu-95 bombers, Su-35 fighters and an air refueling tanker.

In response, Alaska NORAD dispatched F-16 and F-22 fighter jets and an AWACS plane for what the agency called a routine interception. The news release didn’t say where the intercept occurred, or how many U.S. aircraft were dispatched to accompany the Russian planes through the zone.

NORAD officials routinely don’t provide more information than released, and on Sunday they didn’t respond to requests for details.

It’s not unusual for Russian aircraft to fly through the Alaska ADIZ, as they did last month. The zone is within international airspace, and open to all aircraft, military or civilian.

NORAD says the Russian aircraft that flew into the zone on Thursday didn’t enter U.S. or Canadian airspace, and weren’t considered a threat to either nation.

But some observers noted the interception occurred while a large-scale military training exercise called Northern Edge is being conducted around the state, and while the U.S. and NATO are supporting Ukraine in its year-old fight against Russian invasion.

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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