While it took too long for Swedish Air Force Gripen fighters on Quick Reaction Alert to react earlier this week, USAF F-22 Raptor and Canadian CF-188 Hornet fighter jets were quick to fend off advancing Russian combat aircraft.
According to a statement by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) – in which both the US and Canada co-operate – two F-22 Raptor stealth fighters of the 90th Fighter Squadron scrambled quickly on Thursday from their homebase of Elmendorf AFB in Alaska to fend off two Russian Air Force MiG-31 (МиГ-31 / NATO: Foxhound) long-range interceptors, two Tu-142 or Tu-95 (Ту-142 or Ту-142 / Bear) bombers and two IL-78 (Ил-78 / Midas) tankers.
The Russian Air Force package flew right into NORAD’s air defence zone, and made it to about 40 to 55 nautical miles off the coast. Something the Americans consider utterly rude and provocative. Two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornets later intercepted two Russian Bears, when the long range bombers cruised over the Beaufort Sea.
Although these incidents by itself happen more often – 50 times over the last five years for NORAD alone – the Russian Air Force and Naval Aviation recently have increased their air defence probing flights near or in the airspace of other nations. The NORAD zone extends to 200 miles of the coast, which is officially international airspace but both Washington as well as Ottawa consider it to be no playground for military aircraft of other nations.
Russian air activity is of growing concern to countries like Finland and Sweden and it has caused NATO to increase its fighter strength on the northeastern and southeastern flanks. For example: earlier only four NATO fighters took care of showing presence in NATO-member states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from one airbase.
But during the course of several months this has now been increased to at lest 18 aircraft on three main operating bases: Šiauliai in Lithuania (currently home to 4 Portuguese Air Force F-16s and 6 RCAF CF-188s), Ämari in Estonia (currently home to 4 German Air Force EF2000s with another 2 in reserve in Germany) and Malbork in Poland (currently home to 5 Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s).
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger