As Americans were celebrating the Fourth of July holiday, four Russian long-range bomber aircraft flew close enough to the US shores that they were intercepted by military fighter jets. The first set of two bombers flew near Alaska and just 30 minutes later a separate set flew far off the west coast of California.
According to officials at NORAD the flights stayed within international airspace and at no time did any of the Russian bombers enter or get close to entering sovereign North American boundaries.
The first incident occurred at approximately 10:30 a.m. EDT on July 4, when Alaskan-based NORAD F-22 fighters intercepted and visually identified two Russian TU-95 "Bear" long-range bomber aircraft flying off the coast of the Aleutian Islands within the Air Defense Identification Zone (an area of international waters that stretches 200 miles from US coastline), officials at NORAD said in a statement to ABC News.
Then at approximately 11 a.m. EDT, NORAD F-15 fighters from the Continental NORAD Region intercepted and visually identified two additional Bear bombers flying off the central California coast, well away from U.S. sovereign airspace.
While Northcom is not saying precisely how far out the California intercept occurred, one official said it was on the outer lines of the ADIZ, meaning it could have been as far out as 200 miles. US airspace begins 12 miles from the coasts. The US asks military aircraft from other countries operating in that space to identify themselves and will make sure they've changed course away from US shores before backing away.
While intercepts of Russian aircraft off Alaska occur frequently, intercepts off California are less common. In June last year a two long-range Russian bombers flew within 50 miles of northern California.