Thursday, August 09, 2007

Two Can Play That Game Comrade

BBC - Russian bombers have flown to the US island of Guam in the Pacific in a surprise manoeuvre reminiscent of the Cold War era.

Two Tu-95 turboprops flew this week to Guam, home to a big US military base, Russian Maj Gen Pavel Androsov said.

They "exchanged smiles" with US pilots who scrambled to track them, he added.

The sorties, believed to be the first since the Cold War ended, come as Russia stresses a more assertive foreign policy, correspondents say.

The flight is part of a pattern of more expansive Russian military operations in recent weeks, says BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Gen Androsov said the strategic bombers had flown 13 hours from their base in the Russian Far East during the exercise.

"It has always been the tradition of our long-range aviation to fly far into the ocean, to meet [US] aircraft carriers and greet [US pilots] visually," he said at a news conference.

"Yesterday [Wednesday] we revived this tradition, and two of our young crews paid a visit to the area of the base of Guam," he said.

"I think the result was good. We met our colleagues - fighter jet pilots from [US] aircraft carriers. We exchanged smiles and returned home," he added.

During the Cold War, Soviet bombers regularly flew long-haul missions to areas patrolled by Nato and the US.

The bombers have the capability of launching a nuclear strike with the missiles they carry.