In yet another sign of Russia's prickly stance toward the west, an icon of the Cold War, the Tu 95 "Bear" bomber, has returned to the skies, running long haul sorties into areas patrolled by the United States and NATO. The swept wing turboprop bomber has been in service since the early 1950s, just as the aging B 52 bomber has. The Tu 95 is the fastest propeller-driven (using turboprop engines) bomber ever built, and is capable of very long range flight.
A Russian bomber flew over a U.S. naval base on the Pacific island of Guam on Wednesday and "exchanged smiles" with U.S. pilots who had scrambled to track it, said Major-General Pavel Androsov, head of long-range aviation in the Russian air force.
"It has always been the tradition of our long-range aviation to fly far into the ocean, to meet (U.S.) aircraft carriers and greet (U.S. pilots) visually," Androsov told a news conference.
"Yesterday we revived this tradition, and two of our young crews paid a visit to the area of the (U.S. Pacific Naval Activities) base of Guam," he said.
Don't let the cutesy language fool you. This is a very bad sign. Putin is announcing that he is ready for another Cold War if not accorded the respect and deference due an equal. As in a free hand within the sphere he deems Russia's turf. Ukraine. The Caucasus. The Stans. This is all about demonstrating a will to fight if necessary.
The bombers give Russia the capability of launching a devastating nuclear strike even if the nuclear arsenals on its own territory are wiped out.
During the Cold War, they played elaborate airborne games of cat-and-mouse with Western air forces.
Lieutenant-General Igor Khvorov, air forces chief of staff, said the West would have to come to terms with Russia asserting its geopolitical presence.
Hat tip: D.M. Giangreco