US fighter aircraft have been called out to intercept eight Russian bomber aircraft in the past week, according to information from North American Aerospace Defense Command.
A total of four intercepts have taken place, with two occurring last Wednesday and another two happening Tuesday evening. In one instance, Russian aircraft came within just 20 nautical miles of US shores.
NORAD said that Russian aircraft have penetrated its air defense identification zones eight times this year, indicating an uptick in Russian air activity near North America.
US Air Force F-22 Raptors have intercepted eight Russian bombers approaching Alaska in the past week as Russia steps up its air patrols near the US.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) reported Wednesday morning that F-22s, supported by KC-135 aerial refueling tankers and E-3 early warning aircraft, intercepted two Russian bomber formations in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) Tuesday evening.
—North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) June 17, 2020
The first Russian aircraft formation consisted of two Tu-95 bombers, two Su-35 fighters, and an A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, and the second was made up of two Tu-95 bombers and an A-50. The aircraft came within 32 nautical miles of the Alaskan coastline but never entered US airspace.
The Russian defense ministry has released a video of the intercept.
—Минобороны России (@mod_russia) June 17, 2020
And on Wednesday, June 10, two Russian bomber formations consisting of the same types of planes in the same groupings flew long-range air patrols near the US, forcing NORAD to respond.
One of the Russian formations came within 20 nautical miles of US shores, but neither aircraft group ever entered US sovereign airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles from US shores. The ADIZ extends 200 nautical miles from the coastline.
—North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) June 10, 2020
"For the eighth time this year, Russian military aircraft have penetrated our Canadian or Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zones," NORAD commander Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy said in a statement Wednesday, adding, "Each and every time NORAD forces were ready to meet this challenge."
His remarks appear to indicate an uptick in Russian long-range patrol flights near the US. In a statement last year, NORAD said that it has intercepted an average of six to seven Russian sorties entering a NORAD ADIZ since Russia restarted these patrols in 2007.
The Russian aircraft that enter the ADIZs are not always bomber aircraft. For instance, earlier this year, NORAD fighters intercepted a couple of Russian Tupolev Tu-142MZ maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft that are suspected of surveilling Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020.
In April, O'Shaughnessy told reporters at the Pentagon that Russian air activity near North America as a "continuous effort" to "probe and check and see our responses." He said that NORAD is "postured to maintain that ability to respond at a moment's notice."
"We expect to see continued activity there," the general said. "That's why we're postured the way we are, and that's why we're always ready to respond."
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