Bomber incident: two Nuclear-armed Russian Tu-95s reportedly skirt U.S. military base at Guam

According to the Washington Free Beacon website two Russian Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bombers circled Guam island, in the Pacific Ocean, on Feb. 12.

“Defense officials said the bombers tracked over Guam were likely equipped with six Kh-55 or Kh-55SM cruise missiles that can hit targets up to 1,800 miles away with either a high-explosive warhead or a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead,” reports Bill Gertz in his piece.

The episode happened shortly before President Obama delivered his State of the Union address and prompted U.S. to scramble some Kadena F-15s temporary deployed to Andersen Air Force Base.

The Eagles shadowed the two Russian bombers until they left the the area in a northbound direction.

Andersen AFB, on Guam, is strategically located 1,800 miles (about 2,900 km) to the east of China.

It has hosted a deployed strategic bomber force since 2004; recently, the Air Force has announced it will base two B-2 Spirit bombers in the Pacific atoll.

Although this kind of incident is not frequent, this is not the first time Russian strategic bombers conduct a long range training sorties into the south Pacific. And circumnavigate Guam.

In 2007, President Vladimir Putin said Russia had resumed the long-range flights of its strategic bombers that had been suspended in 1992. According to Putin, those tours of duty would be conducted regularly and on strategic scale.

On Aug. 8, 2007 two Tu-95 undertook a 13-hour round trip from Blagoveshchensk base to “visit” Guam for the first time since the end of the Cold War.

Guam is among the key strategic U.S. military installations in the Pacific theater; a base that is pivotal to the Air Sea Battle Concept strategy designed to counter China’s military power in a region characterized by territorial disputes.

Tracking the Bear

Image of a past interception. Credit: U.S. Air Force

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. The title of the the piece is very misleading. No Russian or US strategic bomber is routinely flying around on alert with live nuke cruise missile. It would take a much higher alert status for such activities and think about all the accidents in the past with aircraft on airborne nuke alert missions? No side wants to go back to clearing up the aftermath after a bomber accident carrying nukes.

    What the Russians routinely do is carry inert ALCMs on these long range training missions. This took place on flights for example in 2003 Arabian/Sea and Indian Ocean where inert ALCMs were fired at targets in designated maritime safe areas The same took place in the Atlantic during 2011. Simply all part of the routine training for their crews. The Bear Hs likely fired off the inert ALCMs on a Russian range after the out of area flight?

    • Hi TJ,

      the title is based on what Defense officials said to the Washington Free Beacon.

      I too found it quite weird, but that’s it.

      Thank you for adding interesting details to your comment.

      • Hi David,

        No problem. Is it a case of Bill Gertz playing to the anti-Obama crowd? Anyone can spin such a report with the old ‘unnamed Defense officials said’. There are a lot of Republicans unhappy about Obama signing the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians. Possibly there will be negative reporting when the Russians Tu-95s visit the US?

        Bill Gertz also pulled the ‘Defense official source’ when he claimed a Russian nuke attack sub went undetected near the US. It might just be me, but it reads like he is not a fan of Obama and his dealings with Russia and everything has to be spun in the most negative manner. The other scenario is that his defense contacts are leading him astray with their own agenda to make the Obama administration look weak in regards to Russia.

  2. And Americans are not trying to ramp up the Cold War again?

    Take the log out of your own eye first so that you might see clearly.

  3. I was going to say, if Russia is operating the equivalent of the Chrome Dome flights, this could be big trouble.

    But you make a very good point. The alert level would have to be much, much, much higher for them to start flying armed patrols.

  4. Did anyone notice the F-15 in this photo is armed with a practice Sidewinder and thats it. The missile is painted blue (practice) and has no rear fins. Although the fuel tank is blocking most of the view of the body it doesn’t appear to have any Aim-78 sparrow or Aim-120 amraam missiles either. Cannot not see other side but it’s rare for them to carry asymmetrical loads. Most likely what you see on one side is how it’s loaded on the other…. this is nothing more than a “joint” training between US and Russia. Probably practicing Intercepting procedures. This is very similar to another joint US & Russian program called “Operation Vigilant Eagle” Like TJ said below.. US and RUssian aircraft are visiting each-other’s bases all the time. And don’t forget Space Operations and the ISS. The US and Russian work closely with that too.

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