Author : MARK HENSCH
Posted : 04/19/17 THE HILL
The U.S. military dispatched aircraft late Tuesday to intercept two Russian bombers approaching Alaska, according to a new report.
The incident was the second time in as many days Russian military aircraft were spotted in the region, ABC News said Wednesday.
ABC said it confirmed the encounter with a U.S. official who said two TU-95 “Bear” long-range bombers were observed on a path along the Aleutian Islands.
The official told ABC the vehicles came as close as 35 nautical miles from the U.S. coastline and appeared heading northeast toward the mainland.
ABC said the planes entered the U.S. military’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which extends 200 nautical miles from shore.
U.S. airspace extends 12 miles from its coastlines, it noted, meaning the Russian vehicles were in international airspace while entering the ADIZ.
A U.S. Air Force E-3 AWAC aircraft was reportedly dispatched from Elemendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage during the encounter.
The AWAC accompanied both Russian planes for several hours before they ultimately turned back 35 miles short of the U.S. coast.
Tuesday’s incident follows the dispatch of two F-22 stealth fighters late Monday to intercept a pair of TU-95s also near Alaska.
A Pentagon official noted the TU-95 is capable of carrying nuclear weapons but that neither plane appeared armed during Monday’s incident.
The two days of Russian flights mark the first time in over two years that Russian military aircraft have approached the U.S. mainland.
There have been zero intercepts of such vehicles since summer 2015, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).