As per North American Aerospace Defense Command, US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two sets of Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers off the coast of Alaska on Monday. Out of the two sets, one set was being accompanied by two Su-35 fighter escorts.
The Russian Defense Ministry had already announced on Tuesday that Russian Tu-95MS bombers, capable of carrying nuclear missiles, were sent on an observation flight on Monday close to the western coast of Alaska. The ministry further stated that during the 12-hour flights, there were certain points where the bombers and their escort fighters were followed by US F-22 jets.
It is yet not clear as to why did the Russian had sent so many bombers so close to the US air defenses. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was unable to say if the bombers were armed or not. There is also no explanation as to why these bombers were used for an observation flight since this is not the conventional role of the large, propeller-powered, and four-engine bombers. They are, basically put, heavy cruise-missile platforms.
NORAD dispatched four F-22 jets for the sake of intercepting the two sets of Russian aircraft once they had entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. Surveillance was carried out by an E-3 sentry during the interception carried out by the four F-22 jets. NORAD has further clarified that the Russian bombers remained within the international airspace.
Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said, ‘NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States. Our ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching the US and Canadian airspace.’
The flight on Monday has taken place about two months after Russia’s accusation of the US of heightening tension without any reason between the two countries by using a B-52H Stratofortress bomber near Russia for training with its regional partners. A spokesman for Kremlin had said at the time, ‘Such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region. On the contrary, they create additional tensions.’
The US Military responded by saying that the training missions, including the simulated bombing runs, were important and crucial to ‘deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners.’