Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Russian bombers playing games with NORAD

NORAD is downplaying an incident on Tuesday that saw two CF-18s shadow a pair of Russian military aircraft as they flew within 56 kilometres of Canadian soil.

Two CF-18s, shadowed a pair of Russian military aircraft Tuesday north of Inuvik, N.W.T. The encounter came a day before parliamentarians were to discuss the government's purchase of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, slated to replace Canada's CF-18s. (Louis Nastro/Canadian Press)

In a statement Wednesday, NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defence Command, said the CF-18s "intercepted and visually identified" two TU-95 Bear bombers that entered the Canadian Air Defence Identification Zone.

"At no time did the Russian military aircraft enter Canadian or United States sovereign airspace," said NORAD spokesman Lt. Desmond James, a Canadian naval officer.

"Both Russia and NORAD routinely exercise their capability to operate in the North. These exercises are important to both NORAD and Russia and are not cause for alarm."

In a "readout" email to media early Wednesday, PMO communications director Dimitri Soudas said the aircraft were spotted approximately 220 kilometres north of Inuvik, N.W.T.

The CF-18 jets from 4 Wing Cold Lake in Alberta shadowed the Russians until both aircraft turned around, Soudas said.

"Thanks to the rapid response of the Canadian Forces, at no time did the Russian aircraft enter sovereign Canadian airspace," he said.

The Canadian aircraft returned to base without incident.

NORAD said its aircraft have intercepted four Russian bombers so far this year and 16 times in 2009.

James said NORAD recognizes that all countries have the right to operate in international airspace, but may conduct identification missions should aircraft approach the North American Air Defence Identification Zone.

Soudas said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is in the Canadian North for his annual Arctic tour, was briefed during and at the end of the mission.

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