– Russia Celebrates Independence Day By Flying Strategic Bombers 200 Miles Off California Coast (ZeroHedge, July 6, 2015):
As Americans stared heavenwards at the sound and fury of incendiary devices lighting the dark to celebrate their independence from an over-taxing monarchy, there were other fireworks going off in the skies above Alaska and California. As Fox News reports, two pairs of Russian bombers flew off the coast of California and Alaska – forcing the Air Force to scramble fighter jets to intercept both flights, according to two senior defense officials who did not confirm if the bombers were armed. As Free Beacon adds, it was the second time Moscow dispatched nuclear-capable bombers into the 200-mile zone surrounding U.S. territory in the past two weeks.
While the United States celebrated Independence Day, two pairs of Russian bombers flew off the coast of California and Alaska — forcing the Air Force to scramble fighter jets to intercept both flights, two senior defense officials tell Fox News.
The first incident occurred at 10:30 a.m. ET on July 4 off the coast of Alaska, Fox News is told. Two U.S. Air Force F-22 jets were scrambled from their base in Alaska to intercept two Tupolev Tu-95 long-range strategic bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
The second incident occurred at 11:00 a.m. ET also on July 4, off the central coast of California. Two F-15s from an undisclosed location were scrambled to intercept another pair of Tu-95 Bear bombers.
A spokesman for NORAD would not confirm if either pair of bombers was armed.
A defense official said the Pacific coast intrusion came close to the U.S. coast but did not enter the 12-mile area that the U.S. military considers sovereign airspace.
The bomber flights near the Pacific and earlier flights near Alaska appear to be signs Moscow is practicing the targeting of its long-range air-launched cruise missiles on two strategic missile defense sites, one at Fort Greely, Alaska and a second site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
In May, Russian Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, said during a Moscow conference that because missile defense systems are destabilizing, “A decision on pre-emptive use of the attack weapons available will be made when the situation worsens.” The comments highlighted Russian opposition to planned deployments of U.S. missile defense interceptors and sensors in Europe.
The U.S. defense official called the latest Bear H incident near the U.S. West Coast “Putin’s Fourth of July Bear greeting to Obama.”
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a former Alaska commander for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said the latest Bear H intrusion appears to be Russian military testing.
“It’s becoming very obvious that Putin is testing Obama and his national security team,” McInerney told the Free Beacon. “These long-range aviation excursions are duplicating exercises I experienced during the height of the Cold War when I commanded the Alaska NORAD region.
“These are not good indications of future U.S. Russian relations.”
Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said the incident occurred July 4. He said the “out-of-area patrol by two Russian long range bombers … entered the outer [Air Defense Identification Zone]” and the bombers “were visually identified by NORAD fighters.”
Kirby said the bombers did not enter “sovereign airspace.” He declined to identify the specific distance the aircraft flew from the United States due to operational security concerns. He also declined to identify the types of aircraft used to intercept the bombers.
In last month’s intercept of two Russian Tu-95 bombers, U.S. F-15s and Canadian CF-18s were used.
* * *
As Adm. Bill Gortney, the general at the head of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), told reporters in April,
Russia was using its long-range bomber fleet to “message” the US about Moscow’s international military capabilities.
“They are messaging us. They are messaging us that they are a global power,” Gortney said, while noting that the US does “the same sort of thing” to Russia in Europe.