North American Aerospace Defense Command has reported that U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and Canadian CF-18s intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft north of Alaska on March 9.
“[North American Aerospace Defense Command] fighter aircraft escorted the Tu-142s for the duration of their time in the ADIZ,” officials said.
“The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace over the Beaufort Sea and came as close as 50 nautical miles to the Alaskan coast. The Russian aircraft did not enter the United States or Canadian sovereign airspace.”
Officials did not say that the Russian planes acted unprofessionally in the space or otherwise presented a threat.
NORAD F-22s, CF-18s, supported by KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Monday, March 9th. pic.twitter.com/39n3zqy8F8
— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) March 10, 2020
The ADIZ surrounds the United States and Canada, stretching west of Alaska to cover the Semichi Islands, south of Russia. It’s jointly defended by both countries, and foreign aircraft are not permitted to fly alone in ADIZ airspace without authorization.
“NORAD continues to operate in the Arctic across multiple domains,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, NORAD commander, said in a statement. “As we continue to conduct exercises and operations in the north, we are driven by a single unyielding priority: defending the homelands.”
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett highlighted the strategic importance of the Arctic region in her keynote address at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium last month.
“As in space, America is resolute in defending and protecting international norms of access and navigation as Arctic resources and sea routes gain importance,” Barrett said, calling the Arctic a “central mission” for USAF.
O’Shaughnessy echoed those comments days later in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, noting Russian heavy bombers conducted 48 air patrols in 2019, several of which were intercepted by NORAD fighters near the U.S.
“The Arctic is the new frontline of our homeland defense,” wrote O’Shaughnessy in prepared testimony. “Russia has steadily expanded its military presence in the region” and “has left us with no choice but to improve our homeland defense capability and capacity.”