Russian Aircraft Incursions Near US Increase Amid Friction

Image: Russian Aircraft Incursions Near US Increase Amid Friction Russian TU-95. (Reuters/Landov)

Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 02:32 PM

By Andrea Billups

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The Russian military may be testing U.S. air defenses, with at least 16 incursions by foreign aircraft having been logged in American "air defense identification zones" in the past 10 days, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

Such penetrations near U.S. territory have occurred as America's relations with Russia have suffered amid its stance on Ukraine, prompting U.S. jets to scramble on occasion to intercept the incoming Russian aircraft, the Free Beacon's Bill Gertz reported.

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"Over the past week, NORAD has visually identified Russian aircraft operating in and around the U.S. air defense identification zones," Maj. Beth Smith, spokeswoman for U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told the website.

She said the United States viewed the heightened activity as more training than aggression as a higher number than usual of Russian aircraft were seen primarily along the Alaskan air zone with one incursion entering Canadian airspace.

Among the Russian aircraft observed testing the waters near U.S. borders were Tu-95 Bear H heavy bombers, Tu-142 Bear F maritime reconnaissance aircraft, and one IL-20 intelligence collection aircraft, Smith said.

Defense officials not identified by the Free Beacon told the website they were concerned about Russia's strategic nuclear forces coming closer to the United States.

"These are not just training missions," one defense official said.

The increase in sightings comes after other accounts of Russian jet aggression. In July, the day after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the Ukraine, a U.S. surveillance plane flew into Swedish air space to avoid Russian fighter jets, The New York Times reported.

"The aircraft commander, acting in a professional and safe manner, maneuvered the aircraft to avoid a possible encounter by Russian aircraft," according to a statement released to the Times from the U.S. European Command.

In June, four Russian bombers were observed close to U.S. air space near Alaska, NBC News reported. The Tupolev-95 "Bear" four-engine turboprop bombers split into two groups with two flying toward the Alaska coast and the other two heading toward the Northern California coastline.

U.S. military described such flights as routine and said the Russian bombers never entered U.S. airspace. About 50 Russian bombers have been intercepted close to the United States in the past five years, NBC said.

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