Clearly we’ve reached the level of an advancing tit-for-tat ‘intercept war’ over waters near Alaska as well as off Russia’s far east, now that we’re now approaching a dozen intercept incidents (8 off Alaska alone) in the remote region this year alone.
This week’s tensions began Tuesday night when NORAD F-22 Raptors were scrambled in order to chase off a pair of long-range Tu-95 nuclear-capable bombers along with their Russian fighter jet escorts, which came within about 30 miles of US territory.
And now on Friday, Russia has announced its armed forces answered the prior US intercept with its own aerial intervention against two US Air Force B-52H bombers flying over the Sea of Okhotsk off Russia’s coast, according to a defense ministry statement.
“On June 19, 2020, the air defense quick reaction alert forces of the Eastern Military District spotted and started tracking a pair of US Air Force B-52H bombers over the Sea of Okhotsk,” Russia’s defense ministry said.
Multiple reports say, however, that the incident occurred Thursday night. The US aircraft stayed over neutral waters the whole time while moving near Russian territory.
The Sea of Okhotsk is the northwestern section of the Pacific Ocean off Russia’s eastern coast, surrounded on three sides by Russian coastline, with Japanese islands to the south – and next to the Bering Sea which separates North America from the vast land mass of the Russian Federation.
Russia’s military published cockpit video of the US-52 mission while making the intercept:
“At a considerable distance from the state border of the Russian Federation, the US Air Force planes were continuously tracked by Russian monitoring capabilities,” the MoD statement added. “Su-30, Su-35 and MiG-31 fighters from the air defense quick reaction alert forces of the Eastern Military District were scrambled to intercept the targets.”
Like with the Bering Sea area incident from earlier in the week, Russia released cockpit video of a Russian fighter tracking one of the US bombers off Russia’s coast.
Significantly, this particular US bomber route is said to be a “first”. The Drive reports:
This the first time B-52Hs have flown into this body water, which is surrounded on three sides by Russian territory and where American combat aircraft typically have not ventured in the past, in recent memory. This flight also comes nearly a month after a B-1B conducted a long-range training mission along a similar route as part of the implementation of a new concept of operations for U.S. heavy bomber sorties earlier this year.
The tense encounters are becoming more frequent of late, not only over the Bering Sea, but over the Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black Sea regions as well.