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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian commander says strategic bomber patrols to continue

RIA Novosti

20/12/2007 15:23 MOSCOW, December 20 (RIA Novosti) - There are no technical obstacles to the continuation of long-distance patrols by Russian strategic bombers, the commander of the Air Force's strategic aviation said on Thursday.

Commenting on media claims that Russian bombers had severely worn-out engines, Major-General Pavel Androsov said: "The pilots and technicians' training, as well as the condition of the aircraft, permit us to carry out our assigned tasks in full."

Russia's strategic bombers have carried out since August more than 70 patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans, as well as the Black Sea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the resumption of strategic patrol flights on August 17, saying that although the country had halted long-distance strategic flights to remote regions in 1992, other nations had continued the practice, and that this compromised Russian national security.

Androsov had earlier said that bomber crews had practiced early detection and identification of potential targets and counter-intercept measures.

"Every patrol flight included elements of a tactical aerial engagement," he said.

He also said at least 120 NATO interceptor aircraft had escorted Russian bombers during almost all their patrols, which had a total duration of over 40 hours.

Although it was common practice during the Cold War for both the U.S. and the Soviet Union to keep nuclear strategic bombers permanently airborne, the Kremlin cut long-range patrols in 1992. The decision came as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the ensuing economic and political chaos.

However, the newly-resurgent Russia, awash with petrodollars, has invested heavily in military technology, and the resumption of long-range patrols is widely seen among political commentators as another sign of its drive to assert itself both militarily and politically.

According to various sources, the Russian Air Force currently deploys 141 Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers, 40 Tu-95MS Bear bombers, and 14 Tu-160 Blackjack planes.

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