Russian bombers have increased their flights into the United States Air Defense Zones in the last two weeks, flying their strategic nuclear aircraft within 200 miles of American soil.
"Over the past week, NORAD has visually identified Russian aircraft operating in and around the US air defense identification zones," Captain Jennifer Stadnyk, North American Aerospace Defense Command public affairs officer, told TheBlaze.
Encounters with Tu-95 Russian Bear H bombers prompted U.S. fighter jets to scramble on multiple occasions to get visual confirmation of the planes, and the increase in flights come amid heightened U.S.-Russia tensions over Ukraine.
"This is a spike in activity, but these flights are in keeping with the mission of routine training and exercises," she said, noting that the Russian aircraft did remain in international air space at all times.
The increased activity comes on the heels of another tense encounter in June, when one flight of Russian bombers actually triggered two separate military jet scrambles from NORAD aerospace control alert facilities in Alaska and Oregon. NORAD's mission is to monitor all air activity that approaches North American airspace, and that starts with the 200-mile air defense zone, which is essentially an early-warning barrier to prevent encroachment upon U.S. sovereign air space, which begins just 12 miles off American shores and borders.
That means while NORAD can identify and track the Russian nuclear bombers, there isn't much else they can do.
The Tu-95 bombers are capable of carrying up to 11 tons of fuel and ammunition, and have an un-refueled range of nearly 5,000 miles.
The Washington Free Beacon reported 16 incursions took place over the northwestern U.S. air defense identification zones. While the NORAD team would not confirm an exact number of flights they spotted, they did say fighter jets did not have to scramble for each spotted sortie in the last ten days.
Capt. Stadnyk said NORAD -- the combined organization of theUnited States and Canada that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and defense for North America -- won't reveal the "tactics, techniques and procedures" they use to accomplish their mission, but she did say the airmen employ various ways of identifying foreign planes, from fighter aircraft to an E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning And Control System or ground-based radar.
She also noted the U.S. pulls similar moves on a regular basis, and a recent example is the mid-air muscle flexing the U.S. accomplished with B-52 bomber flights over South Korea to participate in the routine exercises with South Korea, prompting heated reactions from Kim Jong Un.
"Like the U.S. and Canada, Russia and other militaries with air forces conduct regular training," Capt. Stadnyk said. The U.S. is currently conducting a joint exercise this month with the Australian Air Force called Exercise Pitch Black -- the event is the Aussie's "largest and most complex air exercise," and features participants from the United States, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and French Air Force (New Caledonia) who will cooperate for Offensive Counter Air and Defensive Counter Air missions.
(H/T: Washington Free Beacon)
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