For the second time in two days, a pair of Russian bombers flew close to Alaska, this time coming within 35 nautical miles of the coastline, according to a U.S. official.
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Monday was the first time in more than two years that Russian military aircraft have flown close to the U.S. mainland.
Two Russian TU-95 Bear bombers flew a path along the Aleutian Islands on Tuesday evening, headed northeast toward the mainland, the official said.
Though they were flying in international airspace, they entered the U.S. military’s Air Defense Identification Zone, which that extends 200 nautical miles from shore. Unidentified military aircraft are asked to identify themselves while transiting that zone. U.S. airspace extends 12 miles from the U.S. coastline.
A U.S. Air Force E-3 AWAC aircraft was dispatched from Elemendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage to intercept the Russian aircraft.
The U.S. aircraft accompanied the two Russian bombers for several hours before they turned back 35 miles from the coast.
On Monday, two Russian TU-95 bombers came within 100 miles south of Kodiak Island before turning back after being intercepted by two U.S. Air Force F-22 fighters and an E-3 AWAC.
A third Russian aircraft, an IL-38 maritime patrol plane, also entered the American ADIZ on Monday but turned back quickly and was not intercepted by a U.S. aircraft.
Until this week, there had been no intercepts of Russian military aircraft since the summer of 2015, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command.
That may have been partly the result of a safety stand-down of the TP-95 that summer after a series of fatal crashes involving the aircraft.