It seems that the Russians have been getting curious about what’s going on in North America – and more specifically, the United States.
Recently, F-22s have had to intercept a Russian Tu-95 Bear bomber as well as several Russian fighter jets. They maintained their positions in international airspace and did not enter American or Canadian airspace. However, they’re getting closer – and with more frequency.
At the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska (JBER), Lt. Gen. David Krumm made the comment that “We have certainly seen an increase in Russian activity. We intercepted over 60 aircraft last year.”
That’s a lot – and for purposes of comparison, there hasn’t been that kind of activity since the Soviet Union fell in 1991.
With all of the activity that’s been going on across the 200 nautical miles covered by the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), it means that they’ve had to deploy more fighter jets, tankers, and airborne surveillance planes to escort the Russian aircraft away.
Prior to 2020, 10 would be the average number of incursions – including Bear bombers, intelligence-collection planes, and anti-submarine aircraft.
With the heightened activity, is Russia planning something? It’s hard to say.
Russia and China have had a very close relationship when it comes to both military and economics. Often, they support each other on global issues. However, Russia has been concerned with some of China’s latest ambitions.
Now, as the U.S. has begun to hold China accountable – for not only the origins of the coronavirus but also the suspected genocide of the Uyghur Muslims, relations have dwindled even further.
If Russia does choose to maintain its friendship with China, it’s possible that they’re looking to get as much intel for their Eastern friends as they can find.
The added activity has been a strain on the Air Force, though Krumm has said that they’re handling it very well.
Typically, when there’s a Russian too close to U.S. airspace, an F-22 is sent up from JBER. However, it may be that there will be others dispatched soon, too – potentially Raptors and even F-16 Fighting Falcons.
By changing up the planes that are dispatched to deal with the Russians, it allows the planes and the coordinating troops to focus on more complex missions and training.
We’re only a quarter of the way into 2021 – and already there’s cause for concern with the way that Russia is conducting itself. Why send so many planes? It seems that “curiosity” is too mundane of an answer.
Putin, however, is likely up to something. It could have to do with his own issues with the U.S. or he’s working to provide more intelligence to China. Either way, the heightened activity is enough for the Air Force to be paying attention.
NORTHCOM and NORAD have already issued warnings to lawmakers in Congress that the United States must have the ability to detect and respond to all airborne threats, particularly as Russia improves its long-range and bomber aircraft. The Defense Department, in response, is looking to modernize various sensors, satellites, and radars.
If anything, the increase in Russian planes has provided a teaching lesson: we need to continue to up our game in terms of technology and modern warfare.
It’s clear that Russia is starting to show off. Once the Department of Defense gains the funding, it will be necessary to deal with the threat accordingly. Biden, too, may want to think about why it is that Russia seems to be poking around now more than ever before. Though, he’ll probably just give that issue to Kamala Harris since it’s an important one.