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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tu-95 Bombers Step Up Flights Near U.S., Canada

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Russian warplanes staged at least seven exercises outside U.S. airspace near Alaska this summer, and each time U.S. or Canadian fighter jets were dispatched to escort them, U.S. military officials said.

The latest exercise came Sept. 19 and involved two planes flying somewhere off the coast of Canada, Major Allen Herritage, a spokesman for the Alaska region of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said Monday.

They were met by Canadian planes from NORAD, which is jointly operated by the U.S. and Canadian militaries.

At least five exercises by Tu-95 bombers have taken place off Alaska's Aleutian Islands and other historic Cold War outposts, such as Cape Lisburne and St. Lawrence Island, according to NORAD records.

All occurred beyond the 19.3-kilometer boundary that constitutes U.S. airspace and have involved two to six aircraft. Each time, Russia alerted the United States through reports in Russian news agencies, Herritage said.

The bombers have been met by fighter jets, usually F-15s.

"They used to have them from time to time but not nearly in this frequency," Herritage said. "These exercises used to be more common during the Cold War."

The exercises come amid troubled relations between Russia and the West and are seen by some as intimidating moves by an increasingly assertive Russia, but Herritage said the exercises are not a cause for alarm.

"The recent exercises appear to be routine training activities," he said. "They are nowhere near U.S. airspace."

President Vladimir Putin announced in August that Russia was resuming long-range bomber flights over the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans for the first time since the Soviet collapse.

In mid-September, British and Norwegian jets intercepted Russian military aircraft after they breached NATO airspace close to Britain and Finland.