The US and Royal Canadian Airforce intercepted Russian reconnaissance aircraft north of Alaska on Monday, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said late on Tuesday. Two Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft were intercepted as they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. The aircraft were intercepted by US F-22 Raptors and Canadian CF-18 Hornets. The aircraft came close to the Alaskan coast, around 50 nautical miles close to the internationally recognized boundary.
The fighter jets which had E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning And Control System and a KC-135 Stratotanker were able to escort the Russian aircraft off the Alaskan zone after remaining in the region for around four hours.
The NORAD officials confirmed that the Russian planes did not officially enter the US or Canadian airspace during the journey. The Russian aircraft never left the international airspace but came quite close to Alaska by 50 nautical miles close to the Beaufort Sea.
Russians conducted 48 patrol missions last year
General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, NORAD commander, said the team continues to operate under the different domains to protect their homelands. The single objective he highlighted was the continuity of the exercises in the region to protect the respective states from any harm from the rest of the world.
The Russian aircraft coming to the North American continent is common. The practice began in 2007. Last year the Russians conducted 48 such patrolling missions in the region.
NORAD said in a statement that they have employed a "defense network of radars, satellites, and fighter aircraft to identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response". The officials did not confirm whether the Russian fighter jets acted unprofessionally while making this routine flight. They also didn't say that the flight presented any threat to the respective countries. The Canadian and US aircraft intercept the flights routinely to reduce the threat presented by the Russian crafts in the region.
Previously Russia has also flown nuclear-capable bombers in the region as a part of the training programme. This was also intercepted by the US before they closed in on the country's sovereign airspace.