During a good part of the mission the two Russian planes were followed by the NORAD. This Tuesday, January 26, 2021 two Russian strategic reconnaissance aircraft Tupolev Tu-142M3 flew over the waters of the Chukchi Sea, repeatedly grazing the sovereign airspace of the United States. The 3rd Wing of the’US Air Force was hired to monitor the two aircraft and ensure they did not leave international airspace. The mission of the Russian planes lasted about eleven hours.
It is not known where the two Tupolev Tu-142M3 Bear-Js took off from. It is not impossible that it is from the Ugolny air base in the Chukchi peninsula. It is she who has been hosting a detachment of heavy Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound fighters for about three weeks. The radar tracks of the two strategic reconnaissance planes were clearly marked over Wrangel Island, a near-desert Russian territory with some of the harshest conditions on the planet. The four-engined turboprop were on their way to Alaska.
Not accompanied by escort hunters both “Bear JulietAs NATO experts call them flew at medium and high altitudes, oscillating from one altitude to another. Quickly the NORAD, in charge of North American defense, warned the 3rd Wing of the’US Air Force. A AWACS belonging to 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron was moved closer to the area. The crew of the Boeing E-3B Sentry then requested the assistance of interception fighters. It’s the 90th Fighter Squadron who held this role with a Lockheed-Martin F-22A Raptor patrol supported by a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker air tanker belonging to him 168th Air Refueling Squadron. For the record, the latter unit comes under theAir National Guard from Alaska, and therefore from 168th Wing.
Without any surprise the pilots of the American fighter identified the planes as well as their markings of Russian nationality. It must be said that the Tu-142s like the plane from which they derive, the Tu-95 Bear, are familiar models of the Alaskan crews. Once the pilots of theUS Air Force made sure that there was no danger to the security of the United States they broke up the formation and let the Russians complete their mission. Airborne espionage or simple exercise? We will probably never know. TheAWACS of 3rd Wing and ground radars continued to track the two aircraft in question, including when they were refueled on return by an Ilyushin Il-78 Midas.
On the Moscow side, we were content to talk about a mission prepared in advance in the eastern district and which had made it possible to cover 8,000 kilometers of distances at the country’s borders. No mention of the presence of hunters andAWACS Americans. What is normal in this region of the globe where strategic reconnaissance planes of antediluvian design frequently coexist with stealth fighters of air superiority.
Photo © Russian Ministry of Defense.