The US intercepted three groups of Russian aircraft off the Alaskan coast, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced Friday.
It’s the second such incident over just the last three days and the 10th so far this year, military officials said, underscoring the increasingly high tensions between Washington and Moscow off the Alaskan coast.
US F-22 stealth jet fighters intercepted the Russian Tupolev Tu-142 prop planes
The US F-22 stealth jet fighters supported by KC-135 air refuelers intercepted the groups of Tupolev Tu-142 prop planes, the joint US-Canadian command said in a statement.
A pair of F-22s, America’s most capable air superiority fighters, intercepted the Russian planes and escorted them out of the area. Thursday’s intercept marks the fifth time American fighters had to shoo Russian bombers and other aircraft away from U.S. Air Space this month, and the ninth time this year. A number of those intercepts included Russia’s Tu-95 long-range, nuclear-capable, heavy payload bombers, as well as Su-35 fighter escorts.
The Russian aircraft had “loitered” in the area for roughly five hours and had come to within 50 nautical miles of Alaska, but remain in international airspace. The Russian planes did not enter the US or Canadian airspace, NORAD said.
“Our northern approaches have had an increase in foreign military activity as our competitors continue to expand their military presence and probe our defences,” commander Gen. Glen VanHerck said.
Pentagon officials said that American F-22 jets intercepted four Russian Tu-142 aircraft that entered the Alaskan defence zone Saturday. Officials said the “Tu-142s came within 65 nautical miles south of the Alaskan Aleutian island chain and loitered in the ADIZ for nearly eight hours,” though they did not at any time enter U.S. or Canadian airspace.
Military officials warn that Russia clearly is becoming more aggressive in its efforts to test the U.S., but they stress that the American military remains ready.
“This year alone, NORAD forces have identified and intercepted Russian military aircraft including bombers, fighters, and maritime patrol aircraft on ten separate occasions when they have flown into the ADIZ,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), said in a statement. “Despite COVID-19, we remain fully ready and capable of conducting our no-fail mission of homeland defence.”
The Su-35 is a fourth-generation fighter, meaning it lacks stealth capabilities, but is still regarded as among the most capable dogfighting platforms on the planet.
The Su-35’s powerful twin engines are capable of propelling the fighter to a top speed of Mach 2.25, far faster than an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and each comes equipped with thrust vectoring nozzles that allow the aircraft to perform incredible acrobatics that most other fourth and even fifth-generation fighters simply can’t.
Russia sent some of its most capable planes
That is to say that Russia is clearly taking these incursions into America’s backyard seriously, sending some of their most capable platforms on these missions.
America’s F-22 Raptor, however, also comes equipped with twin, thrust vectoring power plants, which in conjunction with its stealth capabilities, likely makes the F-22 the most fearsome air superiority fighter on the planet.
The United States and Russia have a long history of staring matches in the Alaskan ADIZ, but many other nations, particularly members of NATO, often mount their own intercept flights as Russian pilots encroach on their air space as well.
The pace of the Russian incursions has been increasing dramatically. Last Thursday, NORAD intercepted Russian maritime patrol aircraft in the same area. And on June 17, Russian bombers came within 32 miles of Alaskan shores before being met by American F-22s.
The primary reason behind these long-range flights, particularly for heavy payload bombers, is simply training. In order to be able to execute these long-range bombing missions in the event of real war, Russian pilots conduct training flights that closely resemble how actual combat operations would unfold.
It’s worth noting that the United States conducts similar long-range training flights with its own suite of heavy payload bombers, including the non-nuclear B-1B Lancer and the nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress. Long duration missions can be dangerous and difficult even without an enemy shooting back at you — so it’s in the best interest of nations with long-range bomber capabilities to regularly conduct long-range flights.
Long-range missions require a great deal of logistical planning as well, as bombers are often accompanied by fighters that don’t have the same fuel range as the massive planes they escort. That means not only coordinating with escort fighters from multiple installations but also managing support from airborne refuelers and flights of Advanced Warning and Control (AWAC) planes. Executing such a complex operation takes practice, no matter the nation conducting them.
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 28, 2020
“This year, we’ve conducted more than a dozen intercepts, the most in recent years. The importance of our continued efforts to project air defence operations in and through the north has never been more apparent.”
Anadolu with additional information from GVS News Desk