WASHINGTON – The U.S. military says it intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off Alaska’s coast.
Navy Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, says a pair of F-22 Raptor aircraft intercepted the Russian TU-95 Bear bombers on Monday.
Ross says the intercept was “safe and professional.”
North American Aerospace Defense Command monitors air approaches to North America and defends the airspace.
Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Commander of the 11th Air Force, the Alaska NORAD Region and Alaskan Command, said the intercept happened around 7 p.m. near Cold Bay in the Aleutian Islands. The F-22 pilots identified the Russian Bear Bombers, which haven’t been seen near Alaska airspace since July 2015.
NAADC said the American jets escorted the Russian bombers for 12 minutes. The bombers then flew back to eastern Russia.
“We know the Russian Bear aircraft fly long-range aviation in international airspace around the world but it’s been a while since they came toward us, so that was what was unusual,” said Wilsbach.
He said the escort ended by 8 p.m. Wilsbach said the Russian planes weren’t breaking any laws. They flew into an area known as the ADIZ, Air Defense Identification Zone, and that’s why they were intercepted.
“They were operating in accordance with international laws and they were not doing anything wrong. It’s just that they were inside our identification zone and as a part of our mission, we identify them and make sure that everything is good,” said the General.
The F-22 response is part of JBER’s ALERT mission, with planes, pilots and crews on 24-hour standby.