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Russian Bombers Again Circle Guam’s US military bases

Moscow’s latest nuclear saber rattling follows buzzing of USS Reagan


In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, a Russian Tu-95 bomber launches a cruise missile at a target in Syria. Russia's defense minister said its warplanes have fired cruise missiles on militant positions in Syria's Idlib and Aleppo provinces. The Islamic State group has positions in Aleppo province; Idlib has the presence of the Nusra militant group. (AP Photo/ Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

Russian bombers circled the U.S. military hub on the Pacific island of Guam last week in the latest case of Moscow’s nuclear saber rattling.

“On Nov. 25th, two Russian bomber aircraft circumvented Guam, transiting international airspace,” said Army Maj. Dave Eastburn, a Pacific Command spokesman.

The latest bomber flights around the island were the fourth time in the past three years that Russian bombers circumnavigated Guam.

Earlier incursions took place on Dec. 13 and Nov. 12, 2014, and Feb. 12, 2013. During the 2013 incident, U.S. F-15 jets were scrambled to intercept the bombers.

Eastburn declined to specify the exact type of bombers involved in the circumnavigation and sought to play down the incident, noting that the flights “in no way” violated U.S. airspace around the island.

Other officials said the bombers were Tu-95 Bear H nuclear-capable bombers.

One defense official said Japanese jet fighters intercepted the bombers during an earlier stage of the Guam overflight.

Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told a House hearing Wednesday that Moscow is building up its military forces and engaging in nuclear saber rattling, including threats to use nuclear weapons.

“Moscow’s nuclear weapons saber rattling has raised questions about Russia’s commitment to strategic stability,” McKeon said.

He added that “reckless” statements about using nuclear arms “cause us to wonder whether Russia continues to respect the profound caution that world leaders in the nuclear age have shown with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons or nuclear-inspired rhetoric.”

In response to Russian provocations, the Pentagon is developing new unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber, a new long-range stand-off cruise missile, and a number of innovative technologies, McKeon said in testimony to a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

The pre-Thanksgiving Day flights by the Bear bombers come amid an increasing number of provocative Russian bomber activities in Asia, near U.S. coasts, and over Europe.

On Oct. 27, two Tu-142 Bear F maritime reconnaissance aircraft, a variant of the Bear H, flew within one mile of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the Sea of Japan.

During the Reagan incident, four Navy F/A-18 jets were dispatched to escort the Bear bombers that were flying at an altitude of 500 feet.

The bomber incursions are part of stepped-up Russian attempts at nuclear intimidation of the United States that have included increased bomber flights near U.S. coasts and in at least one case a simulated nuclear cruise missile attack, according to defense officials.

On July 4, two Bear bombers came within 40 miles of the California coast in what U.S. officials said was an incident timed to the Fourth of July holiday. One of the Russians radioed “happy birthday” to an intercepting U.S. jet during that encounter.

Tu-95s are known to carry Russia’s new long-range Kh-55SM cruise missiles, which can be armed with either nuclear or conventional warheads and have a range of up to 1,800 miles.

The command said in a statement no U.S. jets were dispatched to intercept the Russian bombers since the aircraft were flying in international airspace.

The aircraft were identified by other defense officials as Bear H strategic bombers.

Russia conducted its operations around Guam in the past with Tu-95 long-range bombers,

“We do not typically discuss the type of aircraft in these situations, but what we can confirm is that the aircraft were flying safely in international airspace and in accordance with international norms,” the command statement said. “As such, the decision was made not to intercept them.”

The 36-mile-long island is home to Andersen Air Force


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