Russian Bear bombers fly along Alaskan, Canadian coastline
Two Russian strategic Tu-95MS Bear-H bombers carried out a flight along the coasts of Alaska and Canada during recent command and post exercises, the Russian Air Force announced Thursday. "Each Tu-95 plane took about 30 tons of fuel on board, for the first time since the Soviet era. Their average flight duration was about 17 hours, during which the planes covered a distance of over 13,000 km [8,000 miles]," said Alexander Drobyshevsky, an aide to the Air Force commander. According to the Air Force, the bombers were refueled in the air by Il-78 Midas tankers. Drobyshevsky also said another pair of Tu-95MS flew around Greenland into the eastern Atlantic, a flight that took about 12 hours. President Vladimir Putin announced the resumption of strategic patrol flights on August 17, saying that although the country halted long-distance strategic flights to remote regions in 1992, other nations had continued the practice, compromising Russian national security. The latest flights were in line with an air patrolling plan, and the planes were accompanied by NATO fighters. According to various sources, the Russian Air Force currently deploys 141 Tu-22M3 bombers, 40 Tu-95MS bombers, and 14 Tu-160 planes.
RAF jets intercept eight Russian bombers
The RAF carried out its biggest operation to protect British airspace since the Cold War when four Tornados were scrambled to intercept eight Russian bombers approaching over the Atlantic. An early warning aircraft and a VC-10 tanker were also launched to support the British fighters responding to apparent sabre-rattling by President Vladimir Putin. The Russian aircraft, all Tupolev 95s, codenamed "Bears" by Nato, turned back before reaching British airspace. This was the biggest deployment of Russian bombers to probe British air defences since the Cold War. Although the ''Bear'' is obsolescent, dating from the 1950s, Russia uses it for long-range reconnaissance missions, designed to test an opponent's reaction time. Flush with oil wealth, Russia has become increasingly assertive in recent months. President Putin has consciously revived memories of the Cold War by sending bombers to test the air defences of Nato countries, notably Norway and America as well as Britain.
In Thursday's incident Norway's air force was the first to intercept the Russian formation over the Barents Sea. Shadowed by Norwegian F-16 fighters, the ''Bears'' continued their patrol and entered airspace over the Atlantic which Britain is responsible for protecting. The RAF keeps four fighters - either Tornado F3s or Eurofighter Typhoons - on "quick reaction alert" to intercept intruders, which yesterday launched from RAF Leeming in Yorkshire. A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the Tornadoes were scrambled at first light. Because of the size of the Russian formation and the need to "monitor the air picture", a Boeing E3 Sentry early warning aircraft, capable of providing long-range radar coverage and guidance for the fighters, was launched from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The distance the RAF jets would have to travel and the time they might spend shadowing the Russian bombers was unclear. So a VC-10 tanker, able to provide air-to-air refuelling, also took off from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. By sunrise, four of the jets that Britain relies on to guard its airspace were heading towards the North Atlantic. But an MoD spokesman denied that the country was left undefended for any period. ''Once the first two aircraft are launched, we stand up another two, we arm them and we get the crews ready. We can do that in pretty in short order. So for every two that go up, we make sure that another two are ready," he said.
The Tornados intercepted the Russian aircraft over the Atlantic, using procedures developed during the Cold War. They shadowed the ''Bears'', carefully tracking their progress. The MoD said that all the Russian aircraft turned back before reaching British airspace. "People may believe this is all pretty simple. But in fact there's a lot to this and that's why we have to be very well practised and coordinated," said an RAF officer. The incident is the latest in a campaign of muscle-flexing by the Kremlin designed to put pressure on both the West and Russia's neighbours. The former Soviet Republics of Georgia and Ukraine, have come under direct pressure from the Kremlin. Both have seen their crucial supplies of natural gas disrupted after defying Russia. But a British official said that despite recent tensions, Russia was still seen as "key international partner".
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Russia flexes muscles with "father of all bombs" - Guardian
An article published in a British newspaper Wednesday has called Russia's testing of a new thermobaric bomb, Moscow's response to U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Central Europe. The Guardian said Russian statements concerning the development of the world's most powerful non-nuclear weapon, dubbed the "father of all bombs," were made "at a time of growing tension between Russia and the West." Russia announced the testing of the new bomb on its state-run Channel One television station Tuesday night, stating that the device was four times more powerful than the U.S. "mother of all bombs" thanks to a new, highly efficient type of explosives. The Guardian also said the "series of war games with China and four other central Asian states," along with Russia's resumed strategic nuclear bombers patrols were "designed to show the country's resurgent military power and the emergence of new regional alliances outside NATO." The Guardian quoted Sergei Rogov, director of the Russian Academy of Science's U.S. and Canada Institute, as saying that, "Relations could sink into a serious crisis in a few years," and "domestic and political factors will aggravate the situation rather than help overcome the differences." The air-delivered thermobaric bomb uses a fuel-air explosive and can create overpressures equal to an atomic bomb, said Alexander Rukshin, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. "It is environmentally friendly, compared to a nuclear bomb, and it will enable us to ensure national security, and at the same time stand up to international terrorism in any part of the globe and in any situation," he said. He stressed that the bomb does not violate any of the international agreements that Russia has signed. While the U.S. bomb is equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, the Russian one is equivalent to 44 tons of regular explosives. The Russian weapon's blast radius is 990 feet, twice as big as that of the U.S. design, the report said.