Alaska News

Alaska-based fighter jets scramble to meet Russian bombers and escorts

Six Russian military planes were intercepted by U.S. jets off Alaska's west coast on Wednesday evening, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

NORAD said two F-22s took off from an undisclosed Alaska location to meet the Russian planes after they were spotted on radar entering the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone. The AADIZ is an area – extending up to 200 miles from Alaska's coastline – in which, upon entering, unidentified planes are met and visually identified by U.S. military aircraft.

NORAD said the Russian planes -- two IL-78 refueling tankers, two MIG-31 fighters and two Bear long-range, nuclear capable bombers -- made a loop and returned to Russian airspace after being contacted by the NORAD planes. A day later, on Thursday, two more Russian long-range bombers were intercepted by Canadian CF-18s 40 nautical miles off that country's Arctic coastline.

"This is nothing new. The Russian aircraft did not violate sovereign airspace in either incident," said NORAD public affairs officer, Lt. Col. Michael Jazdyk.

The Wednesday contact is at least the second in as many months near Alaska. Over a 10-day period in late July and early August, Alaska-based fighter jets intercepted Russian jets inside the AADIZ 16 times.

Jazdyk said over the last five years, Alaska-based NORAD jets have intercepted more than 50 Russian bomber aircraft as they neared Alaska airspace.

"We assume it's just their normal training missions," Jazdyk said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Canadian jets as CF-16s rather than CF-18s.

Sean Doogan

Sean Doogan is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News.