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Jets intercept Russian aircraft

Two US F-22 fighter jets intercepted six Russian military airplanes that neared the western coast of Alaska, military officials said.

At about 1.30am local time on Thursday, two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets intercepted two of the long-range bombers about 40 nautical miles off the Canadian coastline in the Beaufort Sea.

Lt Col Michael Jazdyk, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defence Command, or NORAD, said the US jets intercepted the planes about 55 nautical miles from the Alaskan coast at about 7pm Pacific time on Wednesday.

The Russian planes were identified as two IL-78 refuelling tankers, two Mig-31 fighter jets and two Bear long-range bombers. They looped south and returned to their base in Russia after the US jets were scrambled.

In both cases, the Russian planes entered the air defence identification zone, which extends about 200 miles from the coastline. They did not enter sovereign airspace of the United States or Canada.

Mr Jazdyk said the fighter jets were scrambled "basically to let those aircraft know that we see them, and in case of a threat, to let them know we are there to protect our sovereign airspace".

In the past five years, jets under NORAD's command have intercepted more than 50 Russian bombers approaching North American airspace.

NORAD is a bi-national American and Canadian command responsible for air defence in North America.

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