Feb. 16, 2013 Pacific Daily News
Two Russian Tu-95 bomber aircraft circle Guam on Feb. 12. The aircraft are capable of carrying nuclear cruise missiles.
The two bomber aircraft were followed by two U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter aircraft from Andersen Air Force Base, according to Air Force Capt. Kim Bender, a spokeswoman for the Pacific Air Force in Hawaii. She said the jets “scrambled and responded to the aircraft.”
“The Tu-95s were intercepted and left the area in a northbound direction. No further actions occurred,” she said. Bender said no other details would be released “for operational security reasons.”
According to one military official, the Russian Bear bombers remained in international airspace, the encounter between the U.S. and Russian aircraft “stayed professional” and there was no incident. The official said it’s impossible to determine whether the Russian bombers carried any nuclear weapons.
U.S. long-range radars and satellites tracked the two bombers as they took off from northeastern Russia and headed south on a long-range flight that required “multiple refueling.” Japan also scrambled fighter jets as the bombers passed near but did not enter Japanese airspace.
U.S. military officials say “it’s highly unusual but not unprecedented” that Russian bombers would fly training missions in the vicinity of Guam. According to one official, “It wasn’t provocative but it certainly got our attention.” U.S. long-range B-52 bombers, also capable of carrying nuclear weapons, are based at Guam.
Since Vladimir Putin reclaimed the Russian presidency, U.S. officials said the number of such flights in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska have increased, but encounters with U.S. aircraft have remained “generally very professional.”
The two Russian Bear bombers flew near Guam at about the same time President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union message. Military officials refused to speculate about the timing.