Russian Air Force Tu-95 not only fly long range missions acros the world, they also fire cruise missiles.
Such episodes are not new and have always been reported by both NATO and former Warsaw Pact since the Cold War.
However, in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the “drastically” increased activity of Russian aircraft and warships in the Pacific and around the Japanese islands, U.S. PACAF Command is becoming increasingly concerning.
Just in case someone thought a bunch of unstealthy Tu-95s wandering across the globe pose no threat to anyone, Russia held a live firing exercise during which a “Bear” launched cruise missiles against ground targets.
According to RIA Novosti news agency, at the presence of the presidents of Belarus, Armenia, Kirgizstan and Tajikistan who observed the drills from Russia’s National Defense Center, the bomber “successfully fired six cruise missiles at ground targets simulating key military assets of a hypothetical adversary.”
The Tu-95s can carry up to six KH-55 (NATO designation AS-15 Kent) or KH-555 Air Launched Cruise Missiles internally (or eight Kh-101/Kh-102 externally), with nuclear or conventional warhead and a range of around 1,500 miles. Even if they can be detected by U.S. Air Force radars they could attack ground targets on the west coast remaining well outside the range of any land-based interceptors.
That’s why, in spite of its age, it still represents a significant strategic weapon in Putin’s arsenal.
By the way: during (part of) their long range missions Tu-95s (as well as Tu-22s) are escorted by interceptors. Last month, Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers, accompanied by supersonic Mikoyan MiG-31 interceptors, conducted test flights over neutral waters of the North Sea, RIA Novosti reported.
Image credit: Royal Air Force