UPDATE — 4/21, 10:50 a.m. EDT: A Defense Department official has told CNN Russian military aircraft was spotted off the coast of Alaska for the fourth time in as many days.
The most recent incident occurred Thursday, according to the source, when two bomber planes capable of carrying nukes were spotted approximately 800 miles southwest of Anchorage.
There should be “no other way to interpret this other than as strategic messaging,” on the part of Russia, the official said.
The Pentagon has announced two American fighter aircraft intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska Monday evening.
Describing the incident as “safe and professional,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza told reporters:
“On April 17, two Russian TU-95 Bear bombers were intercepted in international airspace off the coast of Alaska by two Norad U.S. F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft.”
The bombers, two Russian Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bombers flew approximately 100 miles from Kodiak Island when met by two F-22 Raptor fighters and an E-3 Sentry AWACS radar plane from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
According to the official version of events, the American fighter aircraft met the Russian bombers and flew alongside the aircraft for approximately 12 minutes before the Russian planes broke off and returned in the direction of Russia.
Speaking to reporters, Alaskan Command and Alaska NORAD Region commander Lieutenant General Kenneth Wilsbach described the incident.
“I can’t go into all of the details on how we detected them, but we did detect them,” he said. “We were tracking them basically paralleling the Aleutian Islands roughly 100 miles to the south.”
Wilsbach continued to recount the matter, saying no communication occurred between the aircraft, but Russian crew members waved at American pilots.
Monday evening’s mid-air episode between the Russian and American aircraft is the first visual intercept of Russian aircraft since 2015, when a pair of Russian bombers drew near Mendocino, Calif., on July 4, flying as close as 40 miles from the coast.
[The Telegraph] [Wall Street Journal via MarketWatch] [Alaska Dispatch News] [Photo courtesy Aces Flying High]