July 29, 2021

US and Russia Scramble Jets in Another Exchange of Aerial Intercepts

The U.S. and Russia traded aerial intercepts this week, adding to a year of airborne confrontations.

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, accompanied by KC-135 Stratotankers and an E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, intercepted two Russian Tu-95 bombers escorted by a pair of Su-35 fighter aircraft off Alaska late Monday, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which oversees North American operations.

In a series of tweets posted Tuesday, NORAD said it also identified a Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft supporting the intercepted aircraft, which entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. The ADIZ stretches roughly 200 miles off Alaska’s coast.

The A-50 “loitered within the ADIZ for approximately 1.5 [hours] and came within 30 nautical miles of Alaskan shores,” NORAD said on Twitter. “All Russian aircraft remained in [international] airspace and at no time entered sovereign airspace.”

Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of NORAD, said, “The agility and readiness of our personnel ensures we are successful in addressing potential aerospace threats with the appropriate response at the right time.”

On Wednesday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense reported that a MiG-31 and Su-35 scrambled to escort a B-1B Lancer bomber over the Bering Sea. Russia claimed it intercepted two bombers, but video footage posted by the ministry showed a KC-135 refueling plane transiting the region with the B-1.

NORAD has seen more than a dozen intercepts near the U.S. in 2020 — the most in recent years, according to Van Herck.

In August, F-22 jets intercepted Russian spy planes off the coast of Alaska. Three groups of two Tu-142 Russian maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft flew into the ADIZ.

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