US and Canadian fighter jets have reportedly intercepted eight Russian aircraft and refuelling tankers off the coast of Alaska and Canada in two incidents over the past week.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) spokesman captain Jeff Davis was quoted by CNN as saying two Alaskan-based F-22 fighters intercepted two Russian IL-78 refuelling tankers, two Mig-31 fighter jets and two Bear long-range bombers, on 17 September.
On 18 September, two more Russian Bear long-range bombers were intercepted by two Canadian CF-18 fighters approximately 40nm off the Canadian coastline in the Beaufort Sea, Davis said.
NORAD said in a statement that the Russia aircraft did not enter US and Canadian sovereign territories, but were located in the US Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) west of Alaska and the Canadian ADIZ.
NORAD and US Northern Command spokesman John Cornelio said there have been more than 50 similar incidents in the last 50 years.
"We do not see these flights as a threat," Cornelio said.
An undisclosed US defence official was quoted by Agence-France Presse as saying that Russian aircraft have previously entered ADIZ, but the latest incident was ‘the first time in a long time’ that fighter jets had passed through the area.
In a related development, the Swedish Foreign Ministry complained that last week two Russian military aircraft had crossed into its air space south of the Baltic Sea island of Oland.
The ministry branded the incident a ‘serious violation’ and said it summoned the Russian ambassador.
The Russian Su-24 fighter jets remained in Swedish airspace for about 30 seconds and left when a Swedish Air Force Gripen fighter approached, Expressen reported.
Image: Two Russian Mig-31 fighter jets were intercepted by US F-22 Raptors near Alaska. Photo: courtesy of Dmitriy Pichugin.