Russian IL-38
© Sputnik / Pavel Lvov
FILE PHOTO: Russian IL-38 aircraft flies during on-water search-and-rescue joint drills of Russia and Norway in the Barents Sea, on May 28, 2019.
The US Air Force has reported intercepting two Russian scout planes that entered its "defense identification zone" off Alaska. Moscow says it was a training flight and the planes came nowhere near US airspace.

US F-22 Raptor fighters, supported by an aerial refueling KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft and an early warning E-3 AWACS plane, were mustered to intercept Russian military aircraft over the Bering Sea on April 8, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) reported in a series of tweets on Thursday.

The intercept happened north of the Aleutian Islands, which stretch from the coast of Alaska far into the Pacific Ocean.


The formidable force was dispatched to track a couple of Russia's Il-38 maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft, flying over international waters. These Soviet-era planes can also be used for maritime search-and-rescue missions. This time, however, they were on a long-distance relocation training flight that involved a simulated maritime reconnaissance and submarine hunt, the Russian military said in a statement.

The Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly said that its military aircraft conduct training flights in strict accordance with international rules. Even NORAD openly stated that the planes "did not enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace."

Instead, the US said they were inside the 'Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone'. This is a term defined by the US as airspace where the identification and monitoring of aircraft are performed in the interests of national security. These zones, which the US first introduced in 1950 during the Korean War, can far exceed the nation's territorial airspace. They are neither defined nor regulated by any international agreement.

This did not stop the NORAD commander, General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, from boasting that his troops "continue actively watching for threats and defending the homelands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year," regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic that grips the world and has infected hundreds of thousands across America.

The US military also used the opportunity to claim that incidents supposedly involving "Russian aircraft operating near the approaches to our nation" have occurred on "several occasions in the past month."

Left unmentioned were similar incidents involving US military aircraft approaching Russia's borders. These flights even involved nuclear-capable US strategic bombers appearing on Russia's doorstep on "several occasions" in 2019.