• Why Did The Pentagon Consider Not Intercepting Russian Aircraft?

    Russian aircraft continue to operate close to U.S. airspace near the coast of Alaska, and for a brief moment, the Pentagon thought it might a good idea to cease routine intercepts.

    Apparently, the Pentagon figured that the intercepts have very limited intelligence value, mostly since in recent incidents, the Russians didn’t technically violate U.S. airspace, CNN reports.

    Instead, Russian bombers moved into the “air defense identification zone,” prompting officials to discuss the cost-benefit ratio of keeping U.S. aircraft on standby mode in the vicinity.

    In late November 2014, the European Leadership Network cataloged 39 incidents over an eight-month period in which Russian aircraft and boats engaged in military encounters with surrounding countries. Actions directed toward the U.S. include an unarmed Russian fighter aircraft making 12 passes of the American naval warship USS Cook, which at the time was in the Black Sea. This occurred on April 12, 2014.

    Shortly after, on April 23, a Russian fighter aircraft demonstrated very clearly that it was, in fact, armed, performing maneuvers nearby U.S. reconnaissance aircraft over the Sea of Okhotsk. The Russian aircraft came within 100 feet of the aircraft.

    On July 18, Russian fighters forced a U.S. surveillance aircraft into Swedish airspace. Before the incident took place, the U.S. did not have approval from Sweden for airspace entry.

    More recently, U.S. officials in early April of this year complained that Russia intercepted an RC-135U reconnaissance plane that was flying over the Baltic Sea in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner.”

    In response to several threatening airspace violations from the Russians, Nordic countries banded together in early April with defense ministers from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland signing a common commitment to defense cooperation. (RELATED: Nordic Countries Join Together To Discourage Russian Aggression)

    For now, the Department of Defense has decided that intercepts will continue, but in accordance with previous standards, not all flights detected by radar will merit attention from U.S. forces, especially if they’re far enough off the coastline. Several weeks ago, the U.S. declined to intercept the Russian’s first flight of the year. Part of the reason for the inconsistency of intercepts is to appear unpredictable to Russia.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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