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Eielson-based F-16s intercept 2 Russian bombers near Alaska

A JBER-based F-22 accompanies a Russian Tu-95H bomber in the Alaska Air Defense Identification zone in September 2018. On Tuesday, two Eielson-based F-16s intercepted two Tu-95Hs in the Alaska Air Defense ID zone.

Two Eielson-based F-16 fighter jets intercepted a pair of Russian bombers in international airspace off Alaska earlier this week.

The two F-16s detected, tracked, identified and intercepted the Tu-95 Bear bombers on Tuesday after they flew into the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. That’s international airspace, so the F-16s accompanied the Cold-War-era bombers as they transited the air-defense ID zone.

Pacific Air Forces
Two F-16s from Eielson-based 18th Aggressor Squadron escort the first two F-35s to be assigned to the base in April 2020. Eielson now has 52 of the fifth-generation F-35s. The F-16 is a fourth-generation aircraft.

The F-16s were assigned to the North American Aerospace Defense Command. But a NORAD spokesperson says the jets usually are otherwise assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron under the 354th Fighter Wing based at Eielson Air Force Base.

It’s not unusual for Russian aircraft to enter the Alaska air-defense ID zone and be intercepted by Alaska-based aircraft. But most recent intercepts have conducted by F-22s out of Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson.

The NORAD spokesperson cited operational security in declining to comment about where the Bear bomber entered the Alaskan Air Defense ID Zone or why the Eielson-based jets were scrambled to intercept it. But the spokesperson said in an e-mail Wednesday that, quote, “the NORAD mission has historically been supported by a combination of 4th and 5th generation aircraft across the Continental, Alaskan and Canadian NORAD regions.” Unquote.

The F-16 is a so-called 4th-generation aircraft, which preceded the more-sophisticated 5th-generation aircraft, like J-BER’s F-22s and Eielson’s F-35s.

The spokesperson said NORAD uses different aircraft to support the Alaskan region, because that, quote, “allows us to demonstrate our resilient and flexible forces capable of operating in Arctic conditions.”

Tim Ellis has been working as a KUAC reporter/producer since 2010. He has more than 30 years experience in broadcast, print and online journalism.