- Two Russian bombers overflew a U.S. temporary arctic base near the North Pole.
- The bombers were escorted by American and Canadian fighter jets.
- Moscow somehow located the camp and sent bombers, as a way of demonstrating it has eyes even in the most remote regions of the world.
Two Russian strategic heavy bombers overflew U.S. submarines surfaced in the Arctic Ocean and were subsequently escorted by American and Canadian fighter jets. The bombers, fighters, and submarines were in international waters when the incident took place. The incident was caught on video, with the bombers trailing fighter jets dispatched by NORAD.
The incident took place on March 9, somewhere in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. Every two years, the U.S. military stages ICEX, an exercise designed to test the services’ readiness to operate in Arctic conditions. One of the key features of every ICEX is the participation of U.S. Navy (and occasionally Royal Navy) submarines, which break through the ice to rendezvous with other participants that travel over land and air to establish a base camp.
The Tu-95 (NATO code name: Bear) is a 1950s-era heavy bomber that is in many ways Russia’s version of the B-52. The Tu-95 has a crew of six, and can travel up to 9,000 miles at 340 miles an hour. Like the B-52 the bomber is too old to penetrate modern air defenses and is largely restricted to carrying nuclear or conventionally armed long range cruise missiles.
According to Military.com, two Russian Tu-95 bombers flew from Russia—likely Ukrainka Air Base in the country’s far east region—and loitered over the ICEX base at an altitude of 2,500 feet.
The Tu-95 (NATO code name: Bear) is a 1950s-era heavy bomber that is in many ways Russia’s version of the B-52. The Tu-95 has a crew of six, and can travel up to 9,000 miles at 340 miles an hour. Like the B-52 the bomber is too old to penetrate modern air defenses and is largely restricted to carrying nuclear or conventionally armed long range cruise missiles. Big bombers like the Bear typically fly at much higher altitudes for maximum efficiency, so the two aging Russian planes were definitely making a point.
North American Air Defense Command, the joint U.S.-Canadian military command set up to monitor and defend the air space over North America, sent U.S. Air Force F-22A Raptor fighters and Canadian CF-188 Hornet fighters to escort the planes. The video above shows each Bear accompanied by two F-22A Raptors, each with external fuel tanks. The Raptors were likely from the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
NORAD states the two Russian bombers came within 50 miles of the Alaskan coast. That places the two within the Alaska Air Defense Intercept Zone. There’s nothing wrong with the two planes being there, and it’s still a long way from U.S. or Canadian airspace. The U.S. military camp, and the submarines involved, is presumably located in international “waters” in the Beaufort Sea, or what would be water if it weren’t covered in ice.
The camp, named Camp Seadragon, was established on March 4 and was named after the first U.S. Navy submarine, USS Seadragon, to transit the Northwest Passage. The two submarines participating in ICEX 2020 are USS Connecticut, out of Bremerton, Washington and USS Toledo, out of Groton, Connecticut, one submarine each from the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets.
The interesting question is how the Russians found the ice camp in the first place. The base 50 miles from the mainland across a seemingly endless expanse of polar white. The bombers only showed up five days after the camp was established, so it took them a while to find it. But the message in the overflight is clear: Russia is more than capable of locating U.S. forces, even in the arctic.
You Might Also Like