WASHINGTON — Two Russian TU-95 bombers, accompanied by fighters, were intercepted by US F-22 “Raptor” fighter jets after entering the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone, military officials said Wednesday.
The intercept occurred Tuesday night as Russia began its largest military maneuver since the end of the Cold War in the eastern part of its nation, near Mongolia. Chinese and Mongolian troops are joining the exercises.
The U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone extends about 200 miles off Alaska’s western coast and is an earl trip-point warning for NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
“The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace and at no time did the aircraft enter United States or Canadian airspace,” a NORAD statement to the media said.
The two Russian TU-95 bombers “intercepted west of mainland Alaska were accompanied by two Russian SU-35 ‘Flanker’ fighter jets,” NORAD said.
Wednesday’s intrusion was the second in September, NORAD said. The previous intercept occurred on September 1, but on that occasion the bombers were not accompanied by jets, NORAD said.
The Russian military drill since 1981, called the Vostok or “East” —has about 300,000 Russian troops, 3,200 Chinese troops, and more than 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, according to published news reports. On Wednesday the Russian military released a video of bombers and a pair of fighter jets taking off from an airbase in eastern Russia.
As the military exercises were underway, Russian president Vladimir Putin was attending an economic forum in Vladivostok and said he wanted to sign a peace treaty with Japan to formally end World War II. He earlier had watched some of the military exercises.
Japan has refused to sign a treaty until Moscow relinquishes control of the Kuril chain of islands which it seized in the waning days of World War II. The Soviet Union never fought against Japan and declared war only when Tokyo was about to surrender.
“An idea has just come into my head. Let’s conclude a peace treaty before the end of this year, without any pre-conditions,” Putin said during a question-and-answer session at the forum, according to news reports.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was at the forum, gave Putin a cold stare, according to news reports.
Putin and Abe have held talks to solve the dispute over the islands. Last year, Japan decided it would expand its missile capabilities in the region and on Tuesday the Japanese military shot down a mock ballistic missile with one of their new Atago-class destroyers, according to news reports. Japan had previously had four successful tests.