U.S. and Canadian military jets intercept Russian planes near Alaska

An F-16 "Aggressor" flying over the Alaska Range in April 2010. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

In two separate instances, U.S. and Canadian jets intercepted Russian military aircraft off the coast of Alaska.

According to USA Today, a total of 8 Russian aircraft were intercepted as they traveled near U.S. and Canadian airspace. Neither incident appeared to be more than a training exercise and both were non-threatening.

“They just continued on with their mission,” said Army Lt. Col. Michael Jazdyk, spokesperson for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). “We were monitoring the situation to make sure they weren’t going to go in our airspace.”

FOX News reported that the Russian aircraft were intercepted about 55 nautical miles from the Alaskan coast. Sovereign airspace extends about 12 miles off the coastline.  There is an identification zone that extends out 200 miles to allow nations to identify themselves.

Wednesday evening, U.S. F-22 fighters identified 6 Russian aircraft that included two MiG-32 fighters, two long range bombers and two refueling tankers. About six hours later, Canadian CF-18 fighters intercepted and identified two Russian long range Bear bombers in the Beaufort Sea of the coast of Canada.

In both instances, the Russian planes continued on their paths and headed back towards Russia.

“We suspect it was nothing more than a training exercise,” Jazdyk said. “Basically fighter jets are deployed to let foreign aircraft know that they have been seen and that we are there to protect our sovereign airspace.”

NORAD said these intercepts are common, happening on average about once a month. FOX News reported that in the past 50 years, NORAD has intercepted more than 50 Russian aircraft approaching North American airspace.

With growing tension with Russia, NORAD, a binational American and Canadian command responsible for air defense in North America, is on alert to protect the borders. However, in this case they felt there was no threat.

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