US and Canadian fighter jets have intercepted a pair of Russian bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defence Command said.
Two raptor stealth fighter jets and two Canadian CF-18 Hornet fighters identified and intercepted the long-range, nuclear-capable Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers north of Alaska over the Beaufort Sea on Thursday morning, Norad said in a statement.
The bombers had entered Alaskan and Canadian Air Defence Identification zones, which extend approximately 200 miles (321km) off Alaska’s west coast.
Two F-22 and two CF-18 fighter aircraft supported by an E-3 Sentry, a KC-135 Stratotanker and a C-130 Tanker from the NORAD positively identified and intercepted two Tu-95 Bear bombers in the Alaskan and Canadian ADIZ on Aug. 8th. pic.twitter.com/SebmJtMiTu
— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) August 8, 2019
Both the US and Canada expect aircraft entering the area to positively identify themselves in the interest of national security.
It marked the second time this month that Russian aircraft were observed in the area.
Two Tu-142 Russian maritime reconnaissance anti-submarine warfare aircraft entered the zone west of Alaska on 1 August, but were not intercepted at the time, Norad said.
The Russian planes did not enter US or Canadian sovereign territory in either incident, the statement added.
Norad uses a layered defence network of radars, satellites and fighter aircraft to identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response.
“Norads top priority is defending Canada and the United States. Norad operators identified and intercepted the Russian aircraft flying near our nations,” said General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Norad commander.
“Whether responding to violators of restricted airspace domestically or identifying and intercepting foreign military aircraft, Norad is on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
The latest intercept comes at a complex time in US-Russian relations.
US President Donald Trump has expressed his desire to improve ties with Moscow, but the two countries have clashed over several geopolitical issues including the 2016 election interference and the attempted poisoning of an alleged Russian spy in the UK.