- A total of four US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters supported by an E-3 Sentry aircraft were sent out to shadow the Russian aircraft after they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.
- The Russian bomber flights come just two months after the Kremlin criticized the US for flying B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers near Russia during training with European allies and partners.
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US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two sets of two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers, one of which was accompanied by two Su-35 fighter escorts, off the coast of Alaska Monday, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The Russian defense ministry announced Tuesday that Russian Tu-95MS bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, conducted an observation flight Monday near the western coast of Alaska, adding that at certain points during the twelve hour flight, the bombers and their escort fighters were shadowed by US F-22s, Russia's state-run TASS News Agency reported .
It is unclear why the Russians sent so many bombers near US air defenses and NORAD was unable to say whether the Russian bombers were armed. It is also unclear exactly what the bombers were observing, as this is not the traditional role of the large, four-engine, propeller-powered bombers, which are essentially heavy cruise missile platforms.
NORAD sent out a total of four F-22s, two for each intercept, to intercept the Russian aircraft after they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). An E-3 Sentry provided surveillance during the intercepts. The Russian bombers remained in international airspace, NORAD said in a statement.
"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 U.S. and Canadian airspace," Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD, explained .
The bomber flights Monday come roughly two months after Russia accused the US of unnecessarily stirring up bilateral tensions by flying B-52H Stratofortress bombers near Russia for training with regional partners near Russia.
"Such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region," a Kremlin spokesman told reporters at the time."On the contrary, they create additional tensions."
The US military, however, stressed that the training missions, which included simulated bombing runs, were necessary to "deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners."
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