US, Canadian Fighters Intercept Russian Spy Planes North of Alaska

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North American Aerospace Defense Command F-22s intercepted two Russian Tu-142 reconnaissance aircraft.
North American Aerospace Defense Command F-22s and CF-18s intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on March 9th, 2020. (North American Aerospace Defense Command)

Two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft lingered in U.S.-Canadian air defense space Monday for hours after being intercepted by fighter jets, defense officials said.

The two Russian planes were intercepted by U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s, a version of the U.S. Navy's F/A-18 Hornet, in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, officials said in a release.

The ADIZ surrounds the United States and Canada, stretching west of Alaska to cover the Semichi Islands, south of Russia. It's jointly defended by both countries, and foreign aircraft are not permitted to fly alone in ADIZ airspace without authorization.

The F-22s and CF-18s were supported by U.S. KC-135 Stratotanker refueler and E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft, officials said.

Related: Russian Spy Planes Enter Alaskan Air Defense Zone

"[North American Aerospace Defense Command] fighter aircraft escorted the Tu-142s for the duration of their time in the ADIZ," officials said. "The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace over the Beaufort Sea, and came as close as 50 nautical miles to the Alaskan coast. The Russian aircraft did not enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace."

Officials did not say that the Russian planes acted unprofessionally in the space or otherwise presented a threat.

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

Monday's episode is similar to one in August 2019, when two Tu-142s entered the ADIZ and were tracked electronically by NORAD early warning system radars. No aircraft intercept was made in that case, however.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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