Interesting article on the Los Angeles Times website by W.J. Hennigan re: Russian Bear aircraft flights near Alaska and other NATO countries.
"U.S. F-22 fighter jets scrambled about 10 times last year — twice as often as in 2013 — to monitor and photograph Russian Tu-95 "Bear" bombers and MiG-31 fighter jets that flew over the Bering Sea without communicating with U.S. air controllers or turning on radio transponders, which emit identifying signals.
"The Russian flights are in international airspace, and it's unclear whether they are testing U.S. defenses, patrolling the area or simply projecting a newly assertive Moscow's global power.
"They're obviously messaging us," said Flores, a former Olympic swimmer who is in charge of Tin City and 14 other radar stations scattered along the vast Alaskan coast. "We still don't know their intent."
"U.S. officials view the bombers — which have been detected as far south as 50 miles off California's northern coast — as deliberately provocative. They are a sign of the deteriorating ties between Moscow and the West since Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March of last year and its military intervention to support separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"Similar Russian flights in Europe have irked leaders in Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway and elsewhere. In January, British authorities were forced to reroute commercial aircraft after Russian bombers flew over the English Channel with their transponders off.
"In all, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization says its jets scrambled to monitor Russian warplanes around Europe more than 100 times last year, about three times as many as in 2013. Russian air patrols outside its borders were at their highest level since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, NATO said.
"We're experiencing a reawakening of the strategic importance of the Arctic," said Navy Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of the Pentagon's Northern Command and of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
"Is this a second Cold War? It doesn't matter what we think," Gortney said. "Maybe they think the Cold War never ended."
You can read the entire article at http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-alaska-russia-20150406-story.html#page=1