Six Russian aircraft including SU-35 fighter jets, IL-78 tankers, and TU-95 bombers were intercepted by US Air Force fighter jets last week.
Russian planes were operating in international airspace near Alaska at the same time as US troops held large-scale military exercises in the state.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) statement released on May 14, 2023, specified that the incident was “routine” as such Russian activity in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) occurs regularly.
“Since 2007 NORAD has seen a yearly average of approximately six to seven intercepts of Russian military aircraft in the ADIZ,” the release added. “These numbers have varied each year from as high as 15 to as low as zero.”
The Russian warplanes were escorted by the USAF F-16 and F-22 fighter jets, supported by KC-135 Stratotankers and E-3 AWACS, as they passed through the international airspace.
The interception occurred while Alaska’s biggest military operation of the year, Exercise Northern Edge 23 is ongoing, involving five warships and over 150 aircraft. The exercise led by the US Indo-Pacific Command also includes service members from the UK and Australia.
Nevertheless, the interaction is not seen as a threat. Addressing the concerns in a press briefing on May 15, 2023, Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder confirmed that the US “responded appropriately” and that the flight “probably won’t be the last.”
Though the Russian flight is not considered out of the ordinary, NORAD stated it is ready to respond if necessary.
“We remain ready to employ a number of response options in defense of North America and Arctic sovereignty.”
NORAD is a bi-national organization in charge of defending the airspaces of the United States of America and Canada. USAF fighters had previously intercepted two Russian warplanes near the ADIZ in April 2023 and on consecutive days in February 2023.