US F-22 stealth jets intercepted four Russian bombers and two Russian Su-35 fighter jets off the coast of Alaska on Monday, according to a statement from North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The Russian nuclear capable long-range bombers flew into the Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends approximately 200 miles off Alaska’s western coast.
The Russian bomber flights are seen by US military officials as part of Moscow’s effort to train its military for a potential crisis while simultaneously sending a message of strength to adversaries.
US F-22s fighter jets and an E-3 Airborne Early Warning and Control System from North American Aerospace Defense Command “positively identified and intercepted a total of four Tupolev Tu-95 bombers and two Su-35 fighters entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on May 20,” NORAD said in a statement.
The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed the incident in a tweet Tuesday, saying the Tu-95 bombers “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 #F22 fighter jets of the #USAF. The total flight time exceeded 12 hours,” the ministry added.
US officials say Russian bombers and jets have flown in the area several times a year for the last few years and have similarly been intercepted by US or Canadian jets operating as part of NORAD.
“Patrols by Russian military aircraft off the coasts of the United States and Canada have grown increasingly complex in recent years,” O’Shaughnessy said in written testimony submitted to Congress earlier this month.
In January, a US E-3 aircraft, two F-22 fighter jets and two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets similarly “positively identified” two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers entering the Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone.
NORAD is tasked with patrolling US and Canadian airspace and air defense identification zones.