The Russian Air Force has released a video that features a short clip filmed from inside a TU-95 'Bear' long-range bomber as it was being escorted by two F-22 stealth aircraft off the Alaskan coast during the latest in what's been a string of tense intercepts this year.
The incident occurred a week ago and made international headlines. As we reported at the time two Russian bombers were intercepted by the US stealth fighters in international airspace within 200 miles of Alaska's coast in the morning hours of May 11. NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) confirmed the incident in a public statement, which involved the massive Russian planes being escorted away from the US coastline for 40 minutes while in international airspace the whole time.
NORAD and USNORTHCOM spokesman Canadian Army Maj. Andrew Hennessy described of the encounter: "At approximately 10 a.m. ET, two Alaskan-based NORAD F-22 fighters intercepted and visually identified two Russian TU-95 'Bear' long-range bomber aircraft flying in the Air Defense Identification Zone around the western coast of Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands."
While the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged the incident in the immediate aftermath — adding the detail that US monitoring jets never came closer than 100 meters to the Russian bombers — it has now gone further and released its in-flight footage of what happened during the intercept just off the port side of the plane.
However, judging from the footage, it actually does appear the US jets came within 100 meters of the Russian aircraft, if not very close to within that range.
It's somewhat standard for the planes to get so close in order to confirm VID (Visual Identification) by the intercepting fighter aircraft, but Russia for its part, took issue with early statements that this was an "intercept" — which occurred within the US Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) — said to extend approximately 200 miles off Alaska's western coast. NORAD itself confirmed at the time that the Russian aircraft never entered US airspace, according to NORAD's statement.
The Russian head of its long-range aviation operations, Lieutenant General Sergei Kobylash, commented in an article corresponding with the release of the new footage that "no one intercepted anyone."
As for the last such flight, only one pair of US Air Force F-22 fighters have escorted our aircraft. Just one, it says that a certain effect of surprise has worked. Usually, during the execution of such flights, we are escorted to five or seven aircraft, while escorts are carried out by fighters of various states. I want to note that during this flight no one intercepted anyone. US Air Force planes accompanied our aircraft in the airspace over neutral waters. The pilots acted in the air correctly. No violations were recorded.
It appears Russia is seeking to calm tensions and prevent sensationalizing such incidents, especially after a string of Russian-US aerial close calls and intercepts over the past months not only off Alaska, but over the Black Sea as well.
In April Russian bombers were sighted and monitored four times near the Alaskan coast, while in January a Russian Su-27 reportedly flew within a shockingly close 1.5 meters of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane while both were operating over the Black Sea, in international airspace.
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But there will likely be more close calls in the months to come, considering new reports of greater and more frequent Russian advanced long range aircraft in operation over the Arctic Circle and beyond.
As Al Masdar News reports, citing further statements by General Kobylash, Russia is expanding the international presence of its supersonic missile carriers.
Previously on Wednesday, long-range bomber commander Kobylash and Russian Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev discussed the development of airbase infrastructure in the city of Engels in the Saratov region, as well as strategic air deterrence in zones deemed key to Russia’s national interests, and issues related to combating international terrorism.
“The flights that were carried out by the crews of the strategic missile carriers to the equator and Indonesia indicate that the range of tasks is increasing along with the range of those directions and airfields where we are tasked to designate our presence,” said Kobylash.
According to Kobylash, Russia is strengthening the protection of the Arctic with the help of supersonic Tu-160 missile carriers.
“This year we are planning to fly to Anadyr with Tu-160 planes. Now the Arctic is of strategic importance for us, so we are developing new airfields and products for ourselves that will ensure the country’s security from the maritime borders and in this direction,” he said, adding that last year the Tu-22M3 for the first time carried out landings in Anadyr and Vorkuta.
In addition, Kobylash said that the airbase of strategic missile carriers in the city of Engels will receive new headquarters facilities and buildings. He specified that during the first stage of modernization the runway received a new coating of modern materials. Also in 2017 a new refueling complex was built at the airbase.