U.S. F-22s, F-15s intercepted two pairs of Russian Tu-95 bombers off Alaska and California on July 4th

Russian bombers flew off Alaska and California during Independence Day and were intercepted by U.S. Air Force jets.

Twice on Jul. 4, Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers on long-range patrol missions were intercepted by U.S. jets scrambled from airbases located on the West Coast.

According to Fox News, the first security alert occurred at 10:30 a.m. ET when the Russian nuclear-capable bombers flew off the coast of Alaska and two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were scrambled from their base at Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson in Alaska to intercept the Tu-95s.

The second scramble was ordered at 11.00 when 144th Fighter Wing’s F-15s from Fresno, California, were scrambled to intercept what has been described as another pair of Tu-95 Bear bombers flying off California.

Intercept missions of Russian bombers flying not far from the Continental US (sometimes some hundred miles off) are far from being a routine. In fact, not always are U.S. (or Canadian) fighter jets launched to intercept these “zombies”: in 2014, only 6 out of 10 “incursions” saw U.S. or Canadian aircraft scramble against Moscow’s long-range attack aircraft.

For instance, during the first such incidents this year, on Apr. 22, when two Russian Tu-95 Bear H bombers flew into the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), no U.S. aircraft was dispatched to identify and escort the strategic bombers most probably probing North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) response times.

Interestingly, the Tu-95s were launched over the Pacific Ocean on a long-range flight few days after the flight ban (following the mishap that saw a Bear skid off the runway and catch fire at Ukrainka airfield that caused the death of one crew member) was lifted.

Top image: file photo of a U.S. Air Force F-22 escorting a Tu-95 Bear (USAF)


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Surely time these bears got some upgrades? Like new engines and upgrading from solid state electronics? They are looking a touch old compared to the shiny new joint rivet spy planes we now have.

    • Some of them are upgraded versions, but their main use is simply as a long-range missile truck. In a war they’d carry multiple cruise missiles over to an enemy’s coast and fire them beyond the range of ground-based interceptors. Doesn’t matter how shiny they are, as long as the weapons and avionics remain up-to-date.

    • What’s replaced solid state electronics? :) We haven’t gone back to tubes have we? Bears are like BUFFs a collection of useful stuff all crammed into one immortal and useful aircraft. As long as we can track them, and intercept them, I’m happy with the Russians showing them off so we can take nice pics of them.

    • Well, they were updated in the 80s, as far as I know. More importantly though, the cruise missiles they carry have been updated in the last 10 years or so – little information is available about that. Supposedly these are stealthy.

    • I don’t think the Russians care how fancy the plane is… Don’t need a sleek chrome look, nor leather seating, or anything like that. The point is to give someone a bomb, and this clunker will do the job just fine.

  2. The United States is like a German Shepherd. Russia is like that little annoying Chihuahua that annoys and barks at the German Shepherd thinking he’s a tough dog. Russia, you are not the Soviet Union anymore. Get over it.

    • The US as a German Shepard? Dream on. The US is all bark and no bite when it comes to Russia, because it knows it can’t win a war with them. Mess with a Bear and you’ll get mauled.

      • ” The US is all bark and no bite when it comes to Russia, because it knows it can’t win a war with them” Since they already had the ability to annihilate us in the 1980s, no need for them to really update anything. It doesn’t matter who has the more advanced technology at that point. I’ll give ’em that, they know how to save money.

      • “US is all bark and no bite when it comes to Russia, because it knows it
        can’t win a war with them. Mess with a Bear and you’ll get mauled”?

        In both economic and military terms, America is a much stronger nation than Russia. Every educated person knows that. The USN alone has 10x the battle force of Russia’s navy. Enjoy your fantasy, Ivan

    • It’s a little bit funny and symbolic seeing american sci-fi F-22 next to the old turbo-prop bear. Kind of shows which country and ideology succeeded and which failed.

  3. Again I have to ask whether the bomber was flying in international waters or not? If it wasn’t then we have an issue. If it was then what is this interception BS?!

    • Interception in these cases is standard practice around the world and has been for many many decades.

      If they had actually violated our airspace and not responded to communications there is a very real chance they would have been shot down. Nobody wants that.

    • No “BS” about it. Clearly you are unaware of the meaning of “interception”. The F-22s flew up to meet the bomber before it entered US airspace. That is all. It is not required to shoot the other guy down to qualify as an interception.

  4. I live close enough to clearly hear the afterburners. I’ve heard more after burners in the last six months than in the last ten years. Something is going on they are not telling us about.

  5. I am pretty sure those wing tanks ruin any stealth aspects of the F-22 but given the distances in Alaska understandable.

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