The U.S. military deployed fighter jets to intercept two pairs of Russian aircraft as they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Saturday, North American Aerospace Defense Command announced, the second and third intercepts of Russian aircraft in the area this week.

NORAD tasked Air Force F-22 Raptors, supported by KC-135 Stratotankers and E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, to intercept two pairs of Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance planes as they entered ADIZ from the west and north of Alaska. 

The western aircraft remained within the ADIZ for approximately 4 hours and loitered in the vicinity of the U.S. Navy's ICEX submarine exercises, NORAD said in statement, while the northern aircraft spent approximately 15 minutes in area.

Both pairs of Tu-142s were escorted by F-22s during their entire stay into the ADIZ, according to NORAD, which noted that the aircraft remained in international airspace and declined to stray into U.S. and Canadian airspace.

The ADIZ extends 200 miles from the U.S. and Canadian coasts, but territorial airspace only extends 12 miles.

“NORAD employs a layered defense network of radars, satellites, and jet fighters to identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response,” NORAD said in a statement. “The identification and monitoring of aircraft entering the U.S. or Canadian ADIZ demonstrates how NORAD executes its aerospace warning and aerospace control missions for the United States and Canada.”

The intercepts came just under a week after another pair of Tu-142s were intercepted by U.S. and Canadian aircraft as they entered the ADIZ on Monday, lingering for 4 hours and coming as close as 50 nautical miles form the Alaskan coast.

“This is the second and third time this week that incursions into our air defense identification zones were met and escorted by NORAD fighters,” said NORAD commander General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy added. “We continue to see repeated Russian military aviation activity in the Arctic and we will defend the U.S. and Canada against these threats emanating from our northern approaches.”

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, O'Shaughnessy stressed that such intercepts underscore the need for NORAD to remain vigilant and ready to respond in the region.

“They were loitering with an F-22 and an F-18 on their wing,” O'Shaughnessy told lawmakers. “So we have to maintain the ability to be able to react appropriately not just for strategic messaging … but potentially in the future to actually defeat any threats.”

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