US Scrambled F-22s in Response to Russian Military Maneuvers Near Hawaii (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 16 June 2021 07:59 AM
U.S. military scrambled fighter jets in response to the Russian Navy conducting what Moscow officials called its largest exercise in the Pacific Ocean since the end of the Cold War, CBS News reported.
The exercise, which comes just as President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet face-to-face in a much-anticipated summit, was conducted about 300-500 miles west of Hawaii and involved surface ships, anti-submarine aircraft, and long range bombers, according to CBS News.
U.S. defense officials said F-22s did not intercept any Russian aircraft, which did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone, according to the report.
A U.S. carrier strike group, headed by the USS Vinson and conducting a preplanned strike group certification exercise about 200 miles east of Hawaii, was moved closer to Hawaii in response to the Russian exercise, CBS News said Monday night.
"U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is monitoring the Russian vessels operating in international waters in the Western Pacific," U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokesman Captain Mike Kafka told CBS News in a statement.
"We operate in accordance with international law of the sea and in the air to ensure that all nations can do the same without fear or contest and in order to secure a free and open Indo-Pacific. As Russia operates within the region, it is expected to do so in accordance with international law."
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported officials Monday would not disclose why three missile-armed Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 fighters were scrambled Sunday afternoon for an "irregular air patrol" requested by the Federal Aviation Administration.
"The 154th Fighter Wing launched two F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam at approximately 4 p.m.," Pacific Air Forces said in an email to the Star-Advertiser. "A third was launched at approximately 5 p.m."
The Star-Advertiser added the Hickam-based Air Force command said that the FAA requested that U.S. Indo-Pacific Command "conduct an irregular air patrol and the situation resolved, prompting the fighters and a KC-135 Stratotanker [refueling plane] to return to base. We cannot discuss further specifics of the situation."
TASS, the Russian news agency, said "the drills involve up to 20 surface combatants, submarines and support vessels," and "involve up to 20 aircraft," according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
"The Pacific Fleet’s ships and vessels have completed their deployment in the area of an operational exercise and have started accomplishing tasks today under the scenario of tactical maneuvers as part of the Pacific Fleet’s distant maritime zone taskforce," Commander of the Pacific Fleet’s Primorye Flotilla of All-Arms Forces Rear Admiral Konstantin Kabantsov was quoted in TASS.
Biden and Putin were scheduled to meet Wednesday in Geneva. It's their first meeting since Biden took office.
After meeting with NATO leaders on Monday, Biden indicated he will address the transparency of Russia's behavior with Putin.
"I shared with our allies that I will convey to President Putin," Biden said during a press conference. "That I'm not looking for conflict with Russia, but that we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities and that we will not fail to defend the Transatlantic Alliance or stand up for democratic values."
The Defense Department called on Russia to be more transparent about troop movements this spring, when Moscow increased troops on the border with Ukraine before reducing troops in late April.