2 Russian Tu-142s Enter Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone

North American Aerospace Defense Command on Jan. 25 tracked two Russian maritime patrol aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.

NORAD tracked the two Tu-142s in international airspace, and they didn’t enter the sovereign airspace of either the United States or Canada. An Alaskan NORAD Region release did not say U.S. or Canadian aircraft scrambled to intercept.

“NORAD employs a layered defense network of satellites, ground-based radars, airborne radar, and fighter aircraft to track and identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response,” Alaskan NORAD Region said in the release. “This deliberate identification and monitoring of aircraft entering a U.S. or Canadian ADIZ demonstrates how NORAD executes its continuous airspace warning and aerospace control missions for the United States and Canada.”

It is the first disclosed account of Russian aircraft entering the Alaskan ADIZ in 2021. NORAD conducted more intercepts in 2020 than in recent years, senior officials said, as the Arctic region has grown in military importance for both NORAD and Russia.

In addition to Tu-142 maritime patrol aircraft, Russia has sent multiple other types to the Alaskan ADIZ in recent months, including IL-38 maritime patrol and anti-submarine planes, Tu-95 Bear bombers, A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, and Su-35 fighters, according to NORAD releases.

“This is all about an increase in interest in the Arctic,” Maj. Gen. David J. Meyer, NORAD’s deputy director of operations, said in an interview with Air Force Magazine. “It’s obviously becoming a greater and greater interest, and therefore the majority of the activity we encounter at NORAD and NORTHCOM is up in the Arctic region. … It’s been years since anything has come to our coast, at least in the air domain. … It’s all about the increased interest in the Arctic. We’re interested in it, they’re interested in it, the Chinese are interested in it, all of the Arctic nations are interested in it.” 

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:34 a.m. EST Jan. 28 to clarify information from NORAD about aircraft responding to the incident.