US defense officials say Russian strategic nuclear bombers conducted at least 16 incursions into northwestern American airspace over the past 10 days.
The Washington Free Beacon reported on Thursday that Tu-95 Russian Bear H heavy bombers prompted the scrambling of US fighter jets on several occasions.
“Over the past week, NORAD has visually identified Russian aircraft operating in and around the US air defense identification zones,” Maj. Beth Smith, spokeswoman for US Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said.
The flights occurred mostly along the Alaskan air defense identification zone, where foreign militaries must announce flights before entering. The zone covers the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.
A mix of the heavy bombers, Tu-142 Bear F maritime reconnaissance aircraft and one IL-20 intelligence collection aircraft were involved.
The incursions come amid heightened US-Russia tensions over the current crisis in Ukraine.
An American official said that Russian forces appear to be “trying to test our air defense reactions, or our command and control systems.”
Last month, an American spy plane violated Swedish airspace twice in order to escape Russian fighter jets.
US Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint spy plane was fleeing Russian jets that rose to intercept the plane as it was conducting a spying operation over the Baltic Sea near Russia on July 18, according to Swedish media outlets.
The US spy plane entered Swedish airspace without permission and flew as far as the island of Gotland. Only after it passed over Gotland, the aircraft turned southwards to enter international airspace.
However, the four-engine Boeing with sensitive receivers for detecting radar signals violated Swedish airspace for a second time as it flew over east of the island of Oland for some minutes.