Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian air force jets turned back two Russian bombers close to Canada’s northern border yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office said in a statement.
“At their closest point, the Russian aircraft were 30 nautical miles from Canadian soil,” Harper’s spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, said in an e-mailed statement.
The encounter with the Tupolev TU-95 bombers underscores the need for Canada to buy F-35 fighter jets, Soudas said. Harper is currently on a trip to the Arctic and today is visiting Resolute Bay, Nunavut.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said last month Canada will spend about C$9 billion ($8.5 billion) to buy 65 Joint Strike Fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp. to replace its CF-18 planes. The main opposition Liberal Party said it would cancel the purchase if it comes into power.
“The Russian flights have been going on for a long time,” Larry Bagnell, a Yukon Liberal lawmaker, told reporters in Ottawa today. He said Canada should avoid chastising Russia over the flights to maintain a good relationship and help resolve territorial disputes between the two countries in the Arctic.
U.S. and Canadian fighter jets have intercepted four Russian bombers so far this year, 16 last year, 11 in 2008 and 17 in 2007, according to statistics provided by North American Aerospace Defense Command Lieutenant Commander Bill Lewis.
“Both Russia and Norad routinely exercise their capability to operate in the North,” according to a statement provided by Lewis. “These exercises are important to both Norad and Russia and are not cause for alarm.”
In July, two Canadian CF-18 jets intercepted two Tu-95 long-range bombers about 463 kilometers (288 miles) east of Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Toronto Sun reported on July 30, citing MacKay.