U.S. Intercepts Russian Military Planes After Spotting Submarine Near Alaska

The U.S. armed forces announced Friday it intercepted six Russian military aircraft in the skies near Alaska's coast after reporting a Russian submarine spotted off the state's shoreline.

a fighter jet flying through a body of water: NORAD F-22s, CF-18s, supported by KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Monday, March 9th. © North American Aerospace Defense Command NORAD F-22s, CF-18s, supported by KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Monday, March 9th.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a combined U.S.-Canadian military group, stated that it scrambled F-22 fighter aircraft, supported by KC-135 air refuelers, on Thursday night to intercept three groups of two Tu-142 Russian maritime patrol aircraft that entered the Alaska Air Identification Zone (ADIZ). The planes were said to have loitered in the ADIZ for around five hours and approached within 50 nautical miles of Alaska's shoreline.

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However, the Russian aircraft "remained in international airspace and at no time entered United States or Canadian sovereign airspace," NORAD wrote in a press release that suggested an uptick in such activity.

"Our northern approaches have had an increase in foreign military activity as our competitors continue to expand their military presence and probe our defenses," said NORAD's commander, Air Force General Glen VanHerck.

"This year, we've conducted more than a dozen intercepts, the most in recent years," he added. "The importance of our continued efforts to project air defense operations in and through the north has never been more apparent."

The Alaskan and Russian mainlands are only roughly 55 miles apart, and the two share a chain of islands known as the Aleutians, meaning such incidents were not unprecedented.

But U.S. defenses were alerted at sea on Thursday when NORAD and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which VanHerck also leads, spotted a Russian submarine that surfaced near Alaska.

"We closely track vessels of interest, including foreign military naval vessels, in our area of responsibility," NORTHCOM wrote in a statement on Twitter.

"The current Russian maritime activity is taking place in international waters well outside the U.S. territorial sea," it added. "We have not received any requests for assistance from the Russian Navy or other mariners in the area."

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Video: Aerial shots of the MV Wakashio before its larger section was sunk. (AFP)

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