Thursday, September 6, 2007

Jets intercept Russian fighters

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Jets intercept Russian fighters06/09/2007 19:10 - (SA)


Russian bomber near UK skies
RAF fighter jets scrambled
Oslo - Norwegian and British fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers over the north Atlantic, Norway's military command said on Thursday, the latest in a series of such incidents.
Eight Russian Tupolev-95s were detected in international air space over the Barents Sea early on Thursday, said Wing Commander Jon Inge Oegland, a spokesperson for Norway's general staff in Stavanger.
"Following the established routines, we sent up two F-16s (fighters) to mark out Norwegian air space. The Russian planes were close to Norwegian air space but they did not enter," he said.
According to information obtained by AFP, British interceptors were also sent to the zone to shadow the Russian aircraft.
"Russia had announced an aerial military exercise in the coming days," said Oegland. "These latest flights are certainly linked to that."
Russia's airforce announced on Monday that 12 of its strategic bombers would be taking part in strategic exercises in the region, but they were meant to run on Monday and Tuesday.
Nuclear payload
Russia's TU-95s are long-range strategic bombers that date back to the Soviet era. They can be equipped with a nuclear payload.
The Barents Sea lies north of Russia and north-east of Norway.
Thursday's encounter was just the latest in a series of such incidents in recent weeks.
Russia President Vladimir Putin announced the resumption of long-range flights in international air space while he attended military exercises on August 17.
Even in the weeks before his statement, Britain and Norway had to scramble jets to intercept Russian planes near their airspace. Russian bombers had also been making increasingly frequent flights near US territory.
Such flights were standard during the Cold War standoff with the United States and its western European allies, but were abandoned in 1992 amid financial difficulties that followed the Soviet collapse.
Last week, Russia's head of strategic aviation General Pavel Androsov said the aircraft were not carrying nuclear weapons and that the main aim of the flight was to improve training for pilots.
But the flights come against a background of increasing tension between Russia and some western powers.
Growing security ties
Some observers also see it as a sign of renewed self-confidence on the international stage.
Russia has objected strongly to US plans to place anti-missile defence facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland, countries that were ruled from Moscow during the Cold War but are now members of Nato.
Earlier this week, Russian and Chinese special forces began a joint counter-terrorism exercise dubbed "Friendship 2007" in Moscow on Tuesday, underlining the two neighbours' growing security ties.,,2-10-1462_2178364,00.html

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