Flashpoints

NORAD intercepts two Russian reconnaissance aircraft near Alaska

North American Aerospace Defense Command said its aircraft intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft near Alaska on March 9.

NORAD said Tuesday that the Russian aircraft came within 50 nautical miles of the Alaskan coast and remained within the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone over international airspace for roughly four hours.

The Russian aircraft were escorted the entire duration of the flight in the ADIZ by NORAD’s F-22s and CF-18s, which were supported by a KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry aircraft, a news release detailed.

The Russian aircraft never entered U.S. or Canadian airspace and remained over the Beaufort Sea, NORAD said in a release.

“NORAD continues to operate in the Arctic across multiple domains,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD, said in the release. “As we continue to conduct exercises and operations in the north, we are driven by a single unyielding priority: defending the homelands.”

In this Monday, March 9, 2020 photo released by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, top right, is intercepted near the Alaska coastline. (NORAD via AP)
In this Monday, March 9, 2020 photo released by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, top right, is intercepted near the Alaska coastline. (NORAD via AP)

Intercepts of Russian aircraft have been a contentious issue between NATO and Russia, especially as tensions with Moscow remain strained over Russia’s support of separatists in east Ukraine and its aggressive actions countering Turkey in Idlib province, Syria.

While alarming, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters said in June 2019, unsafe intercepts between NATO and Russian aircraft have decreased over the past two years, and are in most cases safe.

An F/A-18 Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 11, embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz escorts a Russian Tu-95 Bear, long rang bomber aircraft on Feb. 9, 2008, south of Japan. The bomber neared the vicinity of the carrier resulting in the fighter intercept. (Navy)
Unsafe intercepts involving NATO aircraft have decreased, and often are the result of a ‘hot-dogging’ pilot, top general says

“In many of the cases where they’re unsafe, when you take a look at the experience level of the operators that were involved, it typically turns into a young man or woman that was probably just hot-dogging it a little bit more than they should." - U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of U.S. European Command

When those intercepts are not safe, the NATO commander explained that its usually the result of a pilot who was “hot-dogging.”

“What I can assure this audience is that well over 99 percent of the intercepts that occur in the air are actually safe,” Wolters told audience members during the June 27 German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum.

“In many of the cases where they’re unsafe, when you take a look at the experience level of the operators that were involved, it typically turns into a young man or woman that was probably just hot-dogging it a little bit more than they should,” Wolters said at the forum.

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