Four Russian military aircraft were intercepted by American fighter jets while they were flying in International airspace just west of Alaska earlier this week, according to officials.
Two Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers and two Su-35 “Flanker” fighter jets entered the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone on Tuesday, NORAD said in a statement Wednesday.
NORAD did not indicate how close to American airspace the Russian aircraft flew nor in which direction. The statement said the intercept happened at 10 p.m. ET.
Russian state media said the American jets escorted its aircraft for around 40 minutes and never came closer than 100 meters, according to Reuters.
This air defense zone is known as an ADIZ. It was declared unilaterally by the U.S. after World War II and is not binding under any international treaty. It reaches more than 200 miles further from Alaska’s westernmost island and 1,700 miles from Anchorage.
This was not the first time an incident like this has happened. A second similar interception happened this month after American fighter jets briefly escorted Russian bombers west of Alaska on Sept. 1.
In recent years, Russian aircraft has been accused of flying dangerously close to U.S. aircraft and ships in eastern Europe’s Black Sea. Russia has also been accused of repeatedly violating the airspace of U.S. NATO allies in the Baltics.
“Homeland defense is NORAD’s top priority,” NORAD’s statement said after Tuesday’s interception. “The identiﬁcation and monitoring of aircraft entering a U.S. or Canadian Air Defense identiﬁcation Zone demonstrates how NORAD executes its aerospace warning and aerospace control missions for the United States and Canada.”
The NORAD commander, Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, added, “The homeland is no longer a sanctuary, and the 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 US. and Canadian airspace.”
Under the rules of ADIZ, the U.S. requests any foreign aircraft to identify itself and its flight plan when entering the air defense zone.
The FAA warns foreign aircraft doing so that they may be intercepted by fighter jets, during which time they are asked to establish radio contact and follow instructions.
“Be advised that non-compliance may result in the use of force,” the FAA says.