Residents in the United States would have had an unlikely visitor last July 4. Good thing the U.S. Military Air Force was quick to reply. As Americans cheered to celebrate Independence Day, the Air Force scrambled to assemble jets to intercept two pairs of Russian bombers discovered flying off the coast of California and Alaska.
A total of four nuclear-capable Russian long-range bomber aircraft, or Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers, flew close enough to U.S. shores. Authorities said the first pair was intercepted near Alaska; thirty minutes later, another pair was intercepted off the west coast of California. Two F-22s and two F-15s hurried to intercept them, respectively.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) officials said the Russian bombers did not enter sovereign U.S. airspace and stayed within international airspace, although they did cruise through the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
An ADIZ is an area of international waters stretching 200 miles from coastline of the U.S. according to ABC News, citing a NORAD statement. America’s sovereign air space, on one end, stretches 12 miles out from the coast.
NORAD could not confirm if the four Russian bombers were armed, Fox News reports, citing an unidentified spokesman.
“It’s becoming very obvious that Putin is testing Obama and his national security team,” retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, former commander of NORAD, told the Washington Free Beacon. “These long-range aviation excursions are duplicating exercises I experienced during the height of the Cold War when I commanded the Alaska NORAD region.”
At least 50 incidents of Russian long-range turbo-propped strategic bombers breaking into the U.S. ADIZ and being intercepted by U.S. Air Force jets have been reported since 2006, the Washington Times reports. In 2014, two long-range Russian bombers flew within 50 miles of northern California.