A Tu-160 bomber lands at a Russian airbase in 2008. (Photo by Wojtek Laski/Getty Images)
A pair of Russian supersonic, nuclear-capable bombers buzzed North America Saturday, forcing American and Canadian fighter jets to scramble and intercept them, the U.S. military said.
The two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers “remained in international airspace,” but were escorted by two U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets and two Canadian CF-18 jets, according to a statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD.
The U.S. jets flew from an Air Force base in Alaska.
The Russian bomber flight near North America — the first known flight this year — coincides with the visit of NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Washington to meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan and national security adviser John Bolton.
President Trump has mulled pulling the United States out of NATO, according to senior administration officials.
U.S. reconnaissance aircraft routinely fly off the coast of Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea, staying just outside the 12-nautical-mile terroritorial limit.
In 2017, U.S. nuclear-capable bombers flew over the Baltic Sea and were intercepted by Russian fighter jets.
And in 2018. a similar scenario played out as Russian bombers escorted by fighter jets flew near Alaska on Sept. 11 before the U.S. intercepted them with F-22s.
In early December, a pair of Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers flew to Venezuela from Russia in a sign of support for embattled President Nicholas Maduro.