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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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Spy planes, bombers intercepted in international airspace off the coast of Alaska

A Russian show of power

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - Over the last week, U.S. defense officials have made sightings of Russian bombers off the Alaskan coast.

Two U.S. officials have said that Russian Bear bombers and spy planes buzzed Alaskan airspace on Thursday night.

A day earlier, two Russian spy planes IL-38s flew near the Aleutian Islands in the Bearing Sea. 

The spy planes reportedly stayed in the U.S. Air Defense Zone for a few hours before departing.

Officials said that on Thursday night, a pair of long-range nuclear-capable Tu-95 Bear bombers flew near Alaska and Canada staying in each country’s air defense zone for hours. 

While officials have not revealed how close the Russian jets came to mainland Alaska, they were said to have remained in international airspace. 

On Monday, two U.S. F-22 Raptor fighter aircrafts flew in international airspace off the coast of Alaska.

The intercept was described by a U.S. military official as safe and professional.

It is said to have taken place about 100 miles from Kodiak Island after the Russian aircraft flew into the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.

U.S. officials have said that there was no cockpit-to-cockpit radio communication between the U.S. and Russian pilots.

This was the fourth consecutive night this week, when Russia flew bombers or spy planes near Alaska.

It is also the first time since President Trump took office that Russia has flown this close to the U.S.  

Russian bombers had come so close to the U.S., last time on July 4, 2015.

A pair of Russian bombers flew 40 miles off the coast of California then.

The incident is an indication that both nations are toeing the line between routine military posturing and escalating provocation.

It also comes a week after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Trump said U.S.-Russian relations had reached a "low point."

In a news conference last week, Trump said, “Right now we are not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.”

Officials have now stated that the U.S. military conducts flights near Russia.

They added that in most cases, such flights use its own reconnaissance aircraft like the U.S. Air Force RC-135 and not long-range bombers.

Downplaying the mid-air interaction, U.S. military officials said it was "nothing out of the ordinary" and "not dissimilar from what we've seen in the past with respect to Russian long-range aviation."

A report in CNN quoted Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger as saying that the Russians were "trying to show their teeth" by flying so close to the U.S. coastline amid tensions between the two nations.

Kinzinger reportedly said, “This was a show of force by the Russians to show us that they are still here. It was an attempt to come up as close as they could to our international borders to see what our reaction would be."

In recent months, a Russian spy ship called the Viktor Leonov has been spotted near the U.S. coastline twice.

Earlier in February, the USS Porter was sailing in the Black Sea when it had three encounters with Russian aircraft

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a written statement, “All such missions are carried out in strict compliance with international regulations and with respect to national borders.”

Moscow has denied that its aircraft made any unsafe moves

 

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