In what has been described as a testing of the time it takes the U.S. to respond to a military threat, two pairs of Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers approached the U.S. West coast on July 4th.
According to sources at the Pentagon, the incursions set off a U.S. Air Force scramble to intercept the planes before they breached US airspace – the first at 10:30 am ET off the coast of Alaska, the other at 11 am ET off the central California coast.
The first incident was responded to by two F-22s and the second by two F-15s.
The Russian bombers were picked up and identified by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) before entering America’s air space – 12 miles out from the coast.
The Pentagon sources didn’t give the exact location of the interceptions, but told reporters it could have taken place as “far out as 200 miles”.
Tupolev Tu-95 bombers have nuclear weapons carrying capabilities, but the Pentagon sources did not say if they were armed.
The two incidents are ominous signs during a period of strained relations between the U.S. and Russia.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, former commander of NORAD told reporters “It’s becoming very obvious that Putin is testing Obama and his national security team.”
He said these types of incidents were similar to what occurred many times during the Cold War.
“These long-range aviation excursions are duplicating exercises I experienced during the height of the Cold War when I commanded the Alaska NORAD region.” said McInerney.