Air Force, Russian bombers playing well-known drama in critical Alaska skies


The Russian bombers that buzzed Us airspace twice this week, not exactly state of the art, but also was the American reaction in a drama that are repeated over Alaska skies for decades.

The Tu-95 Bear bombers flew off the coast of Alaska this week are propeller planes, not Russia, is the slimmer, more advanced TU-160, which is about twice as fast, but has a shorter range.

Fox News visited Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER) in November 2015, where the photos of Russian aircraft buzzed AMERICAN shores from the Cold War to the current line of the wall along a corridor in the base, a short drive north of Anchorage.

“These intercepts are not intended to provoke. They are not looking to escalate.”

– Air Force Col. Harlie Bodine

officials declared that the Russians were rational for the sending of the older, slower plane in the direction of American shores and

“The typical aircraft as you see in the photos as you walk down the hall, the Tu-95 Bear,” said air force Colonel Harlie Bodine, commander of the 611th Air Operations Wing. “That is the plane that we generally perform these intercepts.”

Expand / Contract

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor in a warehouse on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson.

(Fox News)

The very age of the bombers, he sends a signal that the action is not intended to threaten, ” he said.

“These intercepts are not intended to be provocative,” Bodine said. “They are not looking to escalate.”

If the Russians send another bomber, or a Tu-95 with fighter escorts without warning in advance, it would represent a surprise as both sides try to avoid.

“If the Russians are going to send bombers with fighter escorts they realize that would not, that would be a different tactic to use them,” Bodine said. “And that is the reason why typically they would make us aware if that will be the case.”

Expand / Contract

A US Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS prepares for flight on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson.

(Fox News)

In the second incident this week, JBER’t scramble F-22 Raptor stealth fighters. Only a single E-3 Sentry radar aircraft took off in the keep an eye on the Russian jets’ movements, according to the Pentagon.

There was never a chance the Russian aircraft would not be immediately detected.

Air Force officials showed Fox News 15 long-range radar stations to call Alaska, that have been maintained since the Cold War, each able to comb the air out of 250 nautical miles.

“So, no air traffic in and out of Alaska airspace is detected by these radars,” Col. Frank Flores told Fox News while standing outside in -30 degrees Fahrenheit weather in Cape Lisburne, Alaska, north of the arctic circle, just 150 miles from Russia. “The radar picks up a signal, sends it via satellite back to Anchorage, and then controllers monitor that signal, and the providing of information to decision-makers who decide what to do.”

That first-line decision-makers at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Anchorage. If Fox News visited NORAD during a Russian intercept in drill, technicians from Canada and the US were looking for a monitor with red and blue blips – Russian and Us circling each other over maps of Alaska.

American sovereign airspace extends from approximately 12 miles from land. The radar installations are designed to the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which extends up to 200 km.

“It is our buffer between the international air space for the reach of sovereign space, where we want to get a plane so that it is not going to be a threat as it gets closer in the direction of the country,” said Sgt. Vince Rice, a NORAD weapons technician of Newfoundland, Canada.

That is not a lot of ground to cover for a plane to travel around the 400 miles per hour. Depending on the flight path, “it can take from 30 minutes to a few hours” to bridge the gap, said Rice.

Every minute of every day of the year, the us Air Force keeps a alert cell of F-22 stealth fighter jets on the drive, on JBER, “postured to respond to any type of threat to our sovereignty,” said Bodine.

During the 2015 visit, the air force Fox News what a response to a Russian Bear intercept would look like. It was a flurry of flashing blue light, sirens, the air force performed and kites sliding down a fire poll. Seconds count, because of the need to go to the Russians planes before they cross the distance of the ADIZ on our sovereign ground.

“It takes a lot of time to get out there, so every second that we can make on the ground, we can get closer to what there is,” said Kol. Dave Piffererio, a F-22 pilot, the commander of the alert cell that day. The F-22’s are fully armed and ready to go in a blink of an eye.

During an interception, a 25-pilot team on board an E-3 Sentry AWACS radar of the aircraft provides command and control for the F-22 fighter aircraft. During the analysis, engineers were clearly going for a Russian intercept.

“We are looking for MIG-29’s, SU-34. So I go to bandit for MIG-29’s and Neutral colors for the SU-34, who is of Russian aircraft,” said a technician as the plane backed up from the middle of klaxons.

But there are concerns that the E-3, a Cold War-era platform, is old and vulnerable.

“The technology that we have on the unit is probably ’80’s technology and we are starting to modernize,” said Lt.-Col. Eric Gonzalez. “It is an old airframe. What makes this very suitable, however, not necessarily the equipment. It is the training that we receive for the service the equipment in a great way.”

As for the F-22’s, the air force has stopped production at 187 planes, far below the number originally envisioned during the Cold War.

“It is difficult to shut down a line,” said Piffarerio. “You could probably ask combatant commander, and the demand is there.”

Washington has looked into the demolition and the upgrading of the E-3’s and even the restart of the F-22 production, but no decisions have been made.

Washington has also not concluded what we are now faced with the Russians is tantamount to a new Cold War, something Bodine was aware of two years ago.

“We have some of the most amazing individuals who have been labelled as ‘the most clairvoyant,'” Bodine said. “They are able to constantly research this area, ongoing research, not only Russia, but what other countries are doing in the Arctic, to get a better insight on what would come around the corner and what the future has in store.”

Many of the service members, Fox News spoke to charged to Col. Billy Mitchell, the father of the U.S. air force, and one of the most influential military leaders in history.

“Billy Mitchell was one of the first to say that Alaska is the most strategic place on Earth,” said Piffarerio. “You can, in principle, anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere within 12 hours.”

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular