B-52s arrive at Eielson to prepare pilots to intercept Russian aircraft

One of the three B-52s from the Barksdale AFB-based 96th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Wing deploys its drag chute upon landing at Eielson Air Force Base on Sunday. (Credit U.S. Air Force/Lillian Miller)

Three B-52 bombers flew into Eielson Air Force Base over the weekend in preparation for training to intercept Russian aircraft that fly near Alaskan airspace.

The three Cold War-era bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, arrived Sunday for training with U.S. and Canadian aircraft, according to a news release from the U.S. Pacific Air Forces.

It’s the first time B-52s have been at Eielson since September 2018.

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The bomber task force will support the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s mission to safeguard the sovereign airspaces of the United States and Canada, the news release said.

The mission will include flights by a B-52 accompanied by U.S. F-22 Raptors and Canadian CF-18 Hornets that will practice intercepting aircraft over the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. Russian aircraft occasionally enter the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone over the Beaufort, most recently in March. It’s international airspace, but foreign warplanes are required identify themselves if they enter the aircraft-ID zone.

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Last week, U.S. F-22s intercepted two Russian bomber formations that entered the Alaskan ID-zone west of the state, over the Bering Sea. The U.S. aircraft, including an air tanker and AWACS-type surveillance plane, accompanied the Russian planes until they left the ID-zone.

Air Force officials routinely decline to say where the intercepting U.S. fighter jets are based, but many observers say they’re usually from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

U.S. aircraft also intercepted Russian planes in the Alaskan aircraft-ID zone in April.