Russian bombers have stepped up provocative flight exercises off the Alaskan coast, reminiscent of Cold War incursions designed to rattle U.S. air defenses. U.S. Northern Command, which protects North American airspace, told The Washington Times that TU-95 Bear bombers on 18 occasions the past year have skirted a 12-mile air defense identification zone that protects Alaska.
The incursions prompted F-15s and F-22 Raptor fighters to scramble from Elmendorf Air Force Base and intercept the warplanes.
The last incident happened in May. Moscow's sophisticated show of force has some in the Pentagon paying more attention to the long-term goals of a Russian military, which is being rebuilt with proceeds from the country's huge oil and gas revenues. NORAD is more sensitive than ever to wayward aircraft, given the Sept. 11 attacks by hijackers and the lack of military coordination at the time to track, and perhaps destroy, the planes.
Mr. McInerney said the incursions are the most sophisticated since the Cold War. The retired general called the exercises "coordinated attacks coming into our air defense identification zone. These incursions are far more sophisticated than anything we had seen before." He said the Russian army air force is launching Bear bombers from Tiksi on the Arctic Ocean and Anadyr in Siberia. They are flying against the air defense identification zone from both the polar caps and from the south.
The Air Force statement said it has "monitored Russian aircraft taking off from a variety of air bases across their country." ............. read more