Russian Bombers Patrol Near Alaska

In a move that has become increasingly familiar yet no less concerning, Russia confirmed on Wednesday that two of its Tu-95MC strategic bombers, known as Bears by NATO, patrolled over waters near Alaska. This latest demonstration of military muscle, while not breaching any international laws, underscores a growing aggressiveness by Moscow in international airspace.

The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that the bombers, escorted by SU-30SM fighter jets, flew for about nine hours over the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Lieutenant General Sergei Kobylash, Commander of Russian long-range aviation, assured that “The flight was carried out in strict accordance with international rules for the use of airspace.”

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) acknowledged detecting four Russian military aircraft operating in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), a region extending about 150 miles from the U.S. coastline. NORAD clarified, “The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace and did not enter American or Canadian sovereign airspace.”

This occurrence is not an isolated incident but part of a larger pattern. President Vladimir Putin, in 2007, revived the Soviet-era practice of sending strategic bombers on regular patrols beyond Russia’s borders. The Tu-95, a four-engine bomber with contrarotating propellers, is Russia’s counterpart to the American B-52.

While routine and not immediately threatening, these flights are part of Russia’s strategy to maintain a presence in strategically important areas. NORAD’s statement that “This Russian activity in the Alaska ADIZ occurs regularly and is not seen as a threat” should not downplay the significance of these patrols. These flights are a clear signal from Moscow of its global reach and military capabilities amid broader geopolitical tensions.

The ADIZ is an area monitored closely by NORAD, employing a “layered defense network of satellites, ground-based and airborne radars and fighter aircraft” to ensure the defense of North American airspace. NORAD remains vigilant, stating they are “ready to employ a number of response options in defense of North America.”

This development follows several notable incidents in the region. Last August, the U.S. Navy dispatched destroyers to the Alaskan coast following the sighting of 11 Russian and Chinese warships in nearby international waters, an event Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska labeled “unprecedented.” Furthermore, last February saw American warplanes intercept Russian military aircraft near Alaska twice in the same week.

While Russia asserts its flights over the Arctic, North Atlantic, Black and Baltic Seas, and the Pacific Ocean are regular and in accordance with international laws, they undeniably add to the strategic chessboard where both Russian and Western interests intersect.