Friday, October 24, 2014

U.S., Allies scramble jets almost daily to repel Russian incursions

Russian military provocations have increased so much over the seven months since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine that Washington and its allies are scrambling defense assets on a nearly daily basis in response to air, sea and land incursions by Vladimir Putin’s forces according to By Guy Taylor and Maggie Ybarra in a published article in The Washington Times.

Not only is Moscow continuing to foment unrest in Eastern Ukraine, U.S. officials and regional security experts say Russian fighter jets are testing U.S. reaction times over Alaska and Japan’s ability to scramble planes over its northern islands — all while haunting Sweden’s navy and antagonizing Estonia’s tiny national security force.

NATO officials confirmed this week that the Russian air force flew an Ilyushin-20 spy plane into Estonian airspace Tuesday, triggering a swift reaction from NATO fighter jets patrolling the area.

The incursion came just days after Sweden made international headlines by scrambling a fleet of naval vessels to search for a suspected submarine sighted about 30 miles off the coast of Stockholm in the Baltic Sea.

Swedish authorities avoided pinning the incident directly on Russia, and Moscow denied involvement. But regional analysts like Mr. Cohen say they’d be surprised if the sub was not Russian.

The development, the analysts say, fits within a growing list of similar Russian actions, including some directly challenging U.S. territory.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command scrambled jets to scare off two Russian strategic bombers that suddenly appeared to conduct practice runs in airspace just 65 miles off Alaska in June. A similar incident occurred in September, with U.S. and Canadian fighters scrambling to deter six Russian aircraft, including two nuclear bombers, two fighter jets and two refueling tankers, according to news reports.

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