U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets supported by an E-3 Sentry aircraft intercepted Russian Tu-95 bombers and Su-35 jet fighters in international airspace off the coast of Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement.
According to the statement, F-22 fighters intercepted Russian bombers and fighters entering Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on May 20. Two Russian Tu-95 bombers were intercepted by two F-22s and the second group of two Tu-95s with pair Su-35 was intercepted later by 2 more F-22’s; NORAD E-3 provided overall surveillance.
Later also was reported that two pairs of F-22 fighter jets, each with an E-3 intercepted Tu-95 bombers Su-35 fighter jets entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on May 21. The bombers entered the ADIZ and were intercepted by two F-22s, exited and then re-entered the Alaskan ADIZ accompanied by two Su-35 fighter jets.
They were picked up as they entered the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, a perimeter line that lies outside national airspace but within which air traffic is kept under constant surveillance to reduce response times in case of a hostile threat.
“Our ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens and vital infrastructure starts with detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft in our airspace,” NORAD’s commander, General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, said.
“We are on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” he said.
The United States has four Air Defense Identification Zones. The Alaska zone extends about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the state’s coast.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the incident in a tweet Tuesday.
It said the Aerospace Forces “made scheduled sorties over the neutral waters of the Chukotka, Bering and Okhotsk seas, as well as along the western coast of Alaska and the northern coast of the Aleutian Islands.”
“At certain stages of the route, Russian aircraft were escorted by F-22 fighter jets of the USAF. The total flight time exceeded 12 hours,” the Russian ministry added.