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WEB EXTRA: Intercepting The Bear

WEB EXTRA: Intercepting The Bear

Giving foreign borders a buzz was a routine practice of former CF-18 pilot, turned rock start astronaut Chris Hadfield
By Herb Mathisen
Sep 20
2016
From the August/September 2016 Issue

It’s 1985 and a group of Soviet “Bear” bombers—long-range, four-engine Tupolev Tu-95s—are approaching Canadian airspace off the Labrador Coast. A group of CF-18 pilots (including future space-travelling troubadour Chris Hadfield) race to intercept them not far from where, in 1928, early Fokker Universals staged the Hudson Strait Expedition. Hadfield finds the bombers humming in the darkness, miles above the Atlantic, floods them with light and then escorts them on a course out of Canadian airspace. Hadfield would go on to repeat this multiple times in his career. And that’s because it’s a game—military powers like Russia and the U.S. routinely buzz each other’s boundaries to test reaction times and thus prompt similar responses. It’s occurred dozens of times in the last decade in Canada’s Arctic. In 2009, CF-18s intercepted Russian bombers 190 kilometres northeast of Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.