US and Russian Air Forces Keep Pace Despite Global Pandemic

Foreign Affairs

Washington: Undeterred by the global COVID-19 pandemic, American and Russian air forces continue to keep their rivalry as on the night of June 16, US Air Force F-22 jets scrambled to intercept two separate formations of Russian aircraft that included Tu-95 bombers, Su-35 fighter jets, and an A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

The encounter, which occurred in international airspace about 32 nautical miles from Alaska, came less than a week after a very similar encounter. F-22s from the North American Aerospace Defense Command intercepted a group of Russian bombers getting a little too close to Alaska for comfort.

On June 15 the Russian Defence Ministry also posted a video of its Su-27 fighters intercepting an American B-52 bomber over the Baltic Sea during the annual Baltic Operations maritime exercise.

Russia has not scaled back air operations in Europe since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the number of intercepts of Russian aircraft has remained roughly stable, said Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.

Harrigian also pointed to recent operations in Europe, such as bomber task force missions in May where US Air Force B-1B bombers flew with military aircraft from Ukraine, Turkey, Poland and other nations.

Both politically and militarily, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided Russia and the United States yet another arena in which to compete.