While Americans celebrated the Fourth of July, four nuclear-capable Russian long-range strategic bomber aircraft cruised through the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), not far from the Alaskan and California coastlines.
News broke Monday that the Russian TU-95 “Bear” long-range bombers were intercepted by U.S. military fighter jets. Two of the bombers flew near Alaska and a separate pair flew off the west coast of California only 30 minutes later.
Officials at NORAD told news outlets the Russian bombers stayed within international airspace and at no time did they enter sovereign U.S. airspace.
In a statement released to ABC News on Monday, NORAD officials said the Alaskan incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. EDT on July 4, when NORAD F-22 fighters visually identified and intercepted two of the Russian bombers flying off the coast of the Aleutian Islands within the ADIZ — a buffer zone of international waters that stretches 200 miles from U.S. coastline.
Thirty minutes later at 11 a.m. EDT, NORAD F-15 fighters from the Continental NORAD Region visually identified and intercepted two Bear bombers flying off the central California coast.
Officials at Northcom are reportedly not revealing exactly how far the California incident occurred from the American coastline, but one official said it was on the outer lines of the ADIZ.
U.S. airspace starts 12 miles from the coastline. The U.S. asks foreign military aircraft flying in that space to identify themselves and direct them to change course away from U.S. shorelines.
Last year, two long-range Russian bombers flew within 50 miles of northern California.
Since 2006, there have been at least 50 reported incidents of Russian long-range turbo-propped strategic bombers infiltrating the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone and being intercepted by U.S. Air Force jets.
There has been an average of about five Russian aerial incursions per year, but the number of incidents doubled last year after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its continued military involvement in the Ukraine.