In a move that comes as little surprise to anyone, two Russian TU-160 heavy payload bombers were intercepted and escorted away from North American shores by a compliment of American and Canadian Air Force fighter aircraft on Saturday morning. The Russian bombers did not violate American or Canadian airspace during the encounter.
According to an official statement released by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD, two nuclear capable Tu-160 Blackjack bombers entered into the Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone on Saturday morning, prompting the U.S. and Canada to scramble a pair of U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and two CF-18 Hornets to intercept.
An E-3 AWACS, 2x F-22, 2x CF-18 fighter jets from NORAD positively identified 2x Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers entering the Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone on January 26, 2019. Bombers remained in international airspace and did not enter sovereign territory pic.twitter.com/utKe26SRBB
— NORAD & USNORTHCOM (@Norad_Northcom) January 26, 2019
“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States. Our ability to protect our nations starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching US and Canadian airspace,” General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander, said in a statement.
These sorts of intercepts are not at all uncommon, however, they also provide Russia with important strategic insight into North American defenses. Russia’s common presence in the region is undoubtedly intended to assess responses and encourage complacency among American and Canadian military assets in the region.
Feature image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons