The U.S. military says Russian military surveillance aircraft entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on two separate occasions over the past two days.
U.S. F-22 fighter jets intercepted the second aircraft upon entering the airspace, a defense official told VOA. Both entries involved the same type of Russian surveillance aircraft, the official added.
An Air Defense Identification Zone extends beyond a country’s airspace to include an area in which a country tries to identify, locate and control aircraft in the interest of national security.
The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace and did not enter American or Canadian sovereign airspace, according to social media posts by North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, on Wednesday.
“We remain ready to employ a number of response options in defense of North America and Arctic sovereignty,” the post added.
This is the first reported incident of Russian military aircraft nearing Alaskan airspace in 2022, but sightings have become common in recent years.
Russian military aircraft were tracked in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone 14 times in 2020, a high in recent years, with six such incidents occurring within a span of just one month.
Russia launched a massive invasion into Ukraine in February.
Speaking to VOA earlier this year, Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska said the U.S. military has had to “scramble” more fighter jets in recent years to intercept Russian military aircraft “probably more than any other time since the mid-1980s.”
“They’re aggressive here, too, and the only thing that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin understands, and the only thing in my view that [Chinese President] Xi Jinping understands in this new era of authoritarian aggression is power,” Sullivan said.