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U.S. Fighter Jets Intercept Russian Bombers Off Central California Coast

U.S. fighter jets intercepted Russian military aircraft flying off the coast of Central California in one of two incidents on the Fourth of July.

At 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the two Russian TU-95 "Bear" bombers were spotted off the south coast of Alaska near the Aleutian Island, according to Preston Schlachter, North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman.

About 30 minutes later, another incident was reported off the coast of Central California.

“In both cases the aircraft were well away from U.S. sovereign airspace,” Schlachter said, declining to say in which part of the Central Coast the aircraft were spotted.

Among several military installations along the Central Coast is Santa Barbara County’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, home to the Joint Space Operations Center, interceptors for the U.S. ground-based missile-defense system, tests of unarmed intercontinental ballistic missiles, launches of government and commercial satellites and training of space and missile crew members.

Sovereign airspace is considered the area stretching 12 miles from land. 

While NORAD officials are remaining mum about the exact location of the sighting, “I can confirm they weren’t in our airspace,” Schlachter said.

This isn’t the first time the United States’ former Cold War foe flexed its military muscle. 

“I don’t want to say it's common,” Schlachter said. “It has happened in the past.”

U.S. and Russian military aircrews had a similar encounter on the Fourth of July weekend in 2012, he added.

NORAD, with its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., is responsible for identifying all aircraft of interest approaching North America that may be entering sovereign airspace of either the United States or Canada.

Seventy-three years ago, the Imperial Japanese Navy's submarine I-17  surfaced at sundown and fired more than a dozen shells — some reports put the number as high as 29 —  at the oil-production facilities along the coastal area of Santa Barbara County’s Ellwood Mesa, according to the Goleta Valley Historical Society.

Numerous shells missed their target so the Feb. 23, 1942, incident caused only minor damage to the pier and oil facilities. One shell overshot the target and landed on the Tecolote Ranch.

But the shelling sparked fears among local residents of an imminent invasion.

The first attack on the continental United States during World War II came months after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor launched the nation into the war and led to improved coastal defenses.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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