ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Two Russian heavy bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons and cruise missiles flew close to the Alaskan coast not once but twice this week, and a U.S. congressman says it’s part of a message.
The TU-95 “Bear” bombers were intercepted on each occasion – the first time Monday and the second time Tuesday — by U.S. aircraft off the coast of Kodiak Island, Alaska, the Pentagon confirmed. Two U.S. Air Force F-22 fighters intercepted the bombers on Monday, and on Tuesday it was an E-3 surveillance aircraft.
The first intercept was about 100 miles off the coast, the second one about 41 miles away.
“This was a show of force by the Russians to show us that they are still here,” U.S. Rep Adam Kinzinger (R.-Illinois) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Kinzinger described the flights as “an attempt to come up as close as they could to our international borders to see what our reaction would be.” The Russians, he said, are “trying to show their teeth.”
Strategic Bomber and Missile Platform
The TU-95 is a four-engine strategic bomber and missile platform. It is the oldest aircraft in the Russian Air Force and has been in service since 1956.
A TU-95 can carry nuclear bombs or nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, the latter of which are capable of evading radar and antimissile defenses.
A modified TU-95 dropped the largest nuclear bomb ever tested, in 1961 — the so-called Tsar Bomb. During the Cold War, TU-95s often flew patrols with nuclear weapons, much like their American counterpart, the B-52.
There was no radio traffic contact between the bombers and U.S. fighters this week. Instead, the Russians merely flew off.
Russian military forces have been getting more aggressive with their American counterparts lately. The armed spy ship Viktor Leonov was spotted 30 miles off of Groton, Conn., in February.
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