Air Force intercepts Russian bears in the air

Air Force fighter jets from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Anchorage intercepted two Russian long-range bombers about 100-150 miles from Kodiak Island on April 17.

The presence of the Russian TU-95 long range bombers, known as Bear Bombers, was detected by one of the military’s 15 radar sites scattered around Alaska, as unidentified aircraft without a flight plan,” said Capt. Anastasia Schmidt, public affairs director for Alaskan NORAD Region, Alaskan Command, 11th Air Force.

“We picked them up and decided to launch the alert aircraft, and they decided to head west,” Schmidt said in an interview on April 18.

The last time a similar incident occurred was in July 2015, she said.

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The Russian aircraft was in international air space at the time, abiding by international law, she said.

Though the Bear Bombers were running about parallel to the Aleutians and not near Kodiak, detection of the unidentified aircraft prompted the launching of two F-22 captor fighter jets, along with an E-3 Sentry and one KC-135 tanker, the last a refueler from the Alaska Air National Guard out of Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, she said.

U.S. military officials, along with their counterparts in Canada, routinely monitor the skies around their coastal areas constantly, so when unidentified aircraft were detected by radar, “this is what we train for,” Schmidt said. “It’s a perfect example of why events like Northern Edge are vital, so if there are incidents like this we have the know how to respond.

“We go up and visually identify them and fly along side of them,” she said.

Alaska has radar long range throughout this state, and they have a certain range that they pick up and they detect anything in our air space, she said.