At a tense moment of a number of heightened geopolitical standoffs in hot spots where Russia and the west have competing aims, Russian bombers are reportedly cruising over skies near Canada. This comes just as UN Security Council talks are underway over Venezuela at UN headquarters in New York, and at a time when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is in Washington DC for talks with US leaders.
NORAD released the following official statement Saturday just before noon indicating a total of 5 US and Canadian allied military aircraft have identified and shadowed two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers:
An E-3 AWACS, 2x F-22, 2x CF-18 fighter jets from NORAD positively identified 2x Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers entering the Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone on January 26, 2019. Bombers remained in international airspace and did not enter sovereign territory.
The E-3 AWACS is the US Air Force's airborne early warning and control aircraft capable of covering an extensive region of surveillance and communications.
An E-3 AWACS, 2x F-22, 2x CF-18 fighter jets from NORAD positively identified 2x Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers entering the Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone on January 26, 2019. Bombers remained in international airspace and did not enter sovereign territory pic.twitter.com/utKe26SRBB— NORAD & USNORTHCOM (@Norad_Northcom) January 26, 2019
The NORAD statement identified two American F-22 Stealth Raptors and two Canadian Royal Air Force CF-18 Hornet jets as conducting what appears an intercept of the Russian long range bombers in or near the Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone.
However, the statement acknowledged the Russian aircraft stayed within international airspace, but was seen "entering" Canada's expansive aerial defense monitoring zone, which triggered the NORAD response.
Last May Canada expanded its Air Defense Identification Zone after it observed an uptick in Russian air activity in the Arctic region.
“Canada remains committed to supporting the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The alignment of the Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone with our sovereign airspace and its approaches is another expression of our responsibility for the Arctic,” Canada’s Minister of National Defense said in a statement at the time.
In December the Kremlin had controversially deployed Tu-160 Blackjack bombers to Caracas ostensibly on a "training mission" as well as to show solidarity with now embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. After what was reported to be a severe White House rebuke of the action, the Russian strategic bombers withdrew after brief joint training missions with Venezuelan aircraft over the Caribbean.