USAF F-22s, supported by a KC-135 Stratotanker and an E-3 Sentry, intercepted two Russian IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft near Alaska on April 8, the latest in a series of similar incidents in the region.
The Raptors intercepted the Russian propeller-driven planes in the Bering Sea, north of the Aleutian Islands, and out of U.S. and Canadian sovereign airspace, according to a North American Aerospace Defense Command release.
“This is the latest of several occasions in the past month in which we have intercepted Russian aircraft operating near Alaska and the approaches to our nations,” USAF Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, leader of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, said in the release. “We are and will continue executing our no-fail homeland defense missions with the same capability and capacity we always bring to the fight.”
The April 8 intercept follows other similar incidents, including the March 9 intercept of two Russian Tu-142s north of Alaska by USAF F-22s and Canadian CF-18s. In that incident, Russia was learning about U.S. operations since a submarine was operating in the area, and it shows that NORAD needs to be ready.
“We have to understand what’s operating in the approaches to our sovereign airspace and territory, as well as within the confines of our sovereign territory,” O’Shaughnessy told lawmakers on March 11. “… They were learning about 2,500 feet above [the submarine]. They were learning with an F-22 and an F-18 on their wing when they did that. So, we have to maintain the ability to be able to react appropriately, not just for a strategic messaging type event here, but potentially in the future to actually defeat any threats.”