Fighters scramble after Russian bomber was spotted near Alaska


After days of shooting down unidentified “objects”, Canadian and US warplanes took off Monday night to intercept four Russian military planes as they hovered over North American airspace.

North American Aerospace Defense Command, which detected the group of Russian long-range bombers and fighter escorts as it approached Alaska, treated the incident as a normal event. and does not pose any threat.

Norad also dismissed the Russian flight as unrelated to the string of balloons suspected of being shot down over North America, even as the search for debris from those objects continues over the central Yukon and Lake. Huron on Tuesday.

Air traffic watchers were first alerted to another potential incident late Monday when they noticed a Canadian Armed Forces refueling plane heading northwest from Cold Lake, Alta., Use of call signals in connection with aerial intercepts.

The CC-150 Polaris refueling aircraft, whose route from Cold Lake can be tracked on open source websites, returned home early Tuesday morning. The Air Force said the CF-18 was also deployed with US aircraft.

In a statement released hours later, Norad revealed that it intercepted a group of Russian aircraft including Tu-95 long-range bombers and Su-35 fighter jets as they approached Alaskan airspace. .

“The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace and did not enter the sovereign airspace of the United States or Canada,” Norad said. “This Russian activity is not considered a threat, nor is it considered provocative.”

The arrival of the Russian military aircraft near Alaska comes after a US fighter jet shot down what officials described as an “object” but increasingly appeared to be a balloon, off the coast. northeast coast of the state on Friday.

A second “object” was destroyed in central Yukon on Saturday and a third in Lake Huron on Sunday. Officials have said little about these objects, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated on Tuesday that they were balloons.

“What we’re seeing is different types of balloons, seemingly of different sizes and numbers,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting with cabinet ministers on Parliament Hill.

“We are currently continuing to do all possible searches to try to find and recover these items so we know more about them. What is very clear is that they are a threat to civilian travel, to commercial aircraft.”

In his statement, Norad ruled out any direct link between these suspected balloons and the Russian bomber’s deployment to North America, something Moscow has done sporadically. since 2007.

“Norad also assessed that this Russian flight activity has nothing to do with recent activities by Norad and the US Northern Command related to airborne objects in North America over the past two weeks.” it said.

Norad did not say whether there were other Russian long-range bomber flights this year or how many last year.

Meanwhile, as the Canadian and US militaries continue to scour the skies for more potential threats, efforts to recover debris from objects dropped in the Yukon and Lake Huron are making little progress. develop.

In an update outside the House of Commons, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, who are in charge of the Canadian Coast Guard, said the wreckage had yet to be recovered. .

“It is important to emphasize that the swaths of land in the Yukon where the operations are being carried out are very remote, difficult to access and especially given the current conditions,” Mendicino said.

“Given the fact that there is a lot of snow, a lot of wind, etc., you will understand that this will take some time.”

Officials are still trying to determine where the object landed in Lake Huron. The top US military commander, General Mark Milley, told reporters in Brussels an American jet fighter destroyed it with a second missile after the first missed on Sunday.

Mendicino would not speculate on how long the two searches are underway at the same time as US officials scouring the waters off the Alaskan coast for a third object.

“It is important to follow the experts in the field, so the Armed Forces, the RCMP and the Coast Guard will be in the best position to provide answers to these questions,” he said. there.

“I will just say that I know there is a lot of curiosity going on to get to the bottom of what all this is. I appreciate that. And that’s why yesterday we provided a summary from those agencies and we will continue to look at them to answer those questions.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on February 14, 2023.

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