U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two Russian strategic bombers escorted by two fighter jets near Alaska on Tuesday, marking the second time Russia has done so in a month.
Two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, which are traditionally armed with a variety of air-launched cruise missiles, accompanied by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets were picked up by U.S. aircraft “west of mainland Alaska,” North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement Wednesday.
A similar incident occurred on Sept. 1, the Washington Free Beacon first reported. A defense official told the newspaper that the Russian bombers, which entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), south of the Aleutian Islands, may have been practicing cruise missile strikes on US missile defense systems based in Alaska.
The purpose of the most recent flyby is unknown, but it comes as Russia and China kick off Russia's largest war games in decades. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, as first noted by Fox News, released a video Wednesday of two Cold War bombers escorted by fighter aircraft taking off for exercises from an airbase in eastern Russia.
The video is from the Vostok 2018 exercises, in which thousands of Chinese troops are training alongside hundreds of thousands of Russian forces.
It is unclear if the aircraft in the video are the same ones that were intercepted near Alaska.
Russia conducts operations and exercises of this nature regularly. In mid-August, Russia flew two supersonic nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers past Alaska, demonstrating that Moscow can deploy heavy bombers close to the United States. The Tu-160 bombers can carry six standard cruise missiles and 12 short-range nuclear missiles and fly at speeds greater than two times the speed of sound.
Defense officials told Fox News that two Russian bombers came within 55 miles of Alaska's west coast in May, although the aircraft did not enter U.S. airspace, as was the case in the other reported incidents. The flybys show a boldness on Russia's part as tensions between Moscow and Washington rise.
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