The Russian planes were in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) for four hours, remaining roughly 50 nautical miles away from the Alaskan coast, staying out of U.S. and Canadian airspace.
The two Russian planes were TU-142 maritime reconnaissance planes and were intercepted by U.S. F-22 stealth jets, and Canadian CF-18 fighters who escorted the TU-142s during their flyby.
NORAD F-22s, CF-18s, supported by KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Monday, March 9th. pic.twitter.com/39n3zqy8F8— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) March 10, 2020
What happened on March 9th shows how NORAD operates its aerospace controlling and warning missions for the United States and Canada — their primary goal is identifying and monitoring any aircraft that enters the U.S. or Canadian ADIZ.
It's quite normal for Russian military aircraft to be intercepted in this zone by NORAD. They operate in the area as part of their training and have previously flown nuclear-capable bombers into the zone. The U.S. military has reciprocated with similar intercepts.
"NORAD employs a layered defense network of radars, satellites, and fighter aircraft to identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response," said NORAD in a statement.
"NORAD continues to operate in the Arctic across multiple domains," said Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, NORAD Commander. "As we continue to conduct exercises and operations in the north, we are driven by a single unyielding priority: defending the homelands."
NORAD focuses on a bi-national command of both the U.S. and Canada, focusing on their defense. Potential aerospace threats are not distinguished between these two nations, with forces from both sides being drawn together should any issues arise.