Russian military increases capabilities, overflights near Alaska airspace

Russian military flights outside Russian airspace have reached levels not seen since the Cold War, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

Most concerning to NORAD officials is not the number of flights into U.S. and allies’ Air Defense Identification Zones but the increasing capabilities of the Russian aircraft and pilots, Adm. William Gortney said.

Alaska’s NORAD headquarters covers the entire Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone — an area extending 200 miles beyond the state’s sovereign airspace into international airspace and waters. Alaska’s ADIZ averages about 10 incursions by Russian aircraft a year. The number is “growing slightly,” according to Alaska NORAD officials, who characterized the Russian flights as non-provocative training missions.

But NORAD says the recent Russian buildup in its Arctic areas, combined with growing Russian military capabilities in the region, is concerning.

“We are seeing more complexity in flight activity,” said Col. Patrick Carpentier, deputy commander of the Alaska NORAD region. “The Russians have made no secret they are … making a lot of headway in modernizing their weapons.”

Gortney said Russia is working on long-range cruise missiles capable of being launched from ships, aircraft and submarines and which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

“They can reach critical infrastructure in Alaska and Canada that we rely on for a homeland defense mission,” Gortney said in written comments to the Senate committee.

Full article: Russian military increases capabilities, overflights near Alaska airspace (Alaska Dispatch News)

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