Eight Russian aircraft and refueling tankers were intercepted by U.S. and Canadian fighter jets off the coast of Alaska this week, officials said.
Maj. Beth Smith, a spokeswoman with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, known as NORAD, said the Russian craft were likely involved in “training exercises” when they were noticed on the night of Sept. 17 and the morning of Sept. 18.
The craft did not enter United States or Canadian airspace, but were located in an Air Defense Identification Zone that sits roughly 200 miles from the Alaskan coast, Smith said. Commercial flights can enter that airspace but must identify themselves.
Smith said NORAD has intercepted more than 50 Russian long-range bombers in the area in the last five years. The area has become a hotbed for shipping traffic and other craft because of the rapid melting of the polar ice cap, causing a rush to reach mineral deposits and newly created shipping lanes.
On Sept. 17, two F-22 fighter jets intercepted two Russian Bear long-range bombers, two Mig-31 fighter jets and two refueling tankers at about 7 p.m.
Less than seven hours later, two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets intercepted two bombers in the Beaufort Sea, Davis said.
Davis declined to say what an “intercept” entails, citing security protocols. MCT