Hello Neighbor

In 2009, NORAD launched fighter aircraft on 14 occasions in response to unannounced flights of Russian Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers that were in international airspace, but were close enough to US and Canadian airspace to warrant a closer look, Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, NORAD boss, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday in written testimony. He said they “were not considered threats,” but it is NORAD’s practice to dispatch fighters to identify any unknown aircraft in such scenarios. In response to a Senator’s question during the hearing, Renuart said there have also been “a couple of instances” so far in 2010, when Russian bombers have flown close to US airspace in the Aleutians. But he reiterated: “Nothing is threatening us. Their aviators act professionally.” After years of dormancy, the Russians resumed these long-range “training flights” over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans several years ago. (Renuart’s prepared remarks)