Two Russian IL-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft were intercepted Wednesday near Alaska by F-22s supported by KC-135 and E-3 airborne early warning aircraft, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command.

NORAD said the Russian aircraft entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone and were intercepted in the Bering Sea north of the Aleutian Islands. The Russian maritime aircraft never entered U.S. or Canadian airspace.

“COVID-19 or not, NORAD continues actively watching for threats and defending the homelands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,”General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD said.

The Russian IL-38 maritime aircraft are also used to hunt submarines.

There have been a string of Russian patrol aircraft intercepts near Alaska over the last month.

In March, U.S. and Canadian jets intercepted Russian reconnaissance aircraft near Alaska spying on a U.S. submarine exercise known as ICEX.

“We continue to see repeated Russian military aviation activity in the Arctic and we will defend the U.S. and Canada against these threats emanating from our northern approaches," O’Shaughnessy said about the March intercepts near the submarine exercise.

ICEX is a three-week biennial exercise that allows the U.S. to assess the readiness of its submarines to operate in the Arctic.

O’Shaughnessy told lawmakers in March the intercept of the Russian aircraft highlighted a need to maintain the “ability to react appropriately” by having “persistent defense” and domain awareness to potentially defeat the threat.

That means knowing what’s coming in or near U.S. and allied sovereign airspace and having the ability to react to that threat — not just deploying forces to the region when they need to get up there, O’Shaughnessy said.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

More In Flashpoints