Once again this summer North American Aerospace Defense Command F-22 fighter aircraft, supported by KC-135 air refuelers intercepted Tu-142 Russian maritime patrol aircraft within the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone late this week. In a first for the year, Russia sent in three groups of the aircraft who stayed in the zone for over five hours.
While in the zone, the Russian wartime aircraft never strayed into Canadian or Alaska airspace. At their closest, the aircraft approached the coastline at only 50 miles.
This incursion took place as Russia continues its largest exercise in the Bering Sea since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This year has seen almost twice as many intercepts, at 13, than in previous years where an average of 6-7 intercepts is the norm.
“Our northern approaches have had an increase in foreign military activity as our competitors continue to expand their military presence and probe our defenses,” said General Glen D. VanHerck, commander of NORAD. “This year, we’ve conducted more than a dozen intercepts, the most in recent years. The importance of our continued efforts to project air defense operations in and through the north has never been more apparent.”
The three groups of two aircraft approached the Aleutian Chain from the north, west and south.
Just the day prior, NORAD spent the day monitoring a Russian submarine that surfaced in the area as Russia conducted its wargames in the waters separating the U.S. and Russia.