Russia has recently been in the news for its aggressive bomber patrols. Well, the United States has apparently flipped the script with the Russians and done a little bomber patrolling of its own.
According to a report by Reuters, at least one Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker was scrambled to intercept a Air Force B-52H Stratofortress that was flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea along Russia's border.
An underside view of a Soviet Su-27 Flanker aircraft carrying air-to-air missiles. (DOD photo)
Russia Today reported that the B-52 intercept was followed by Moscow scrambling a MiG-31 Foxhound to intercept a Norwegian P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The Norwegian plane was operating in international airspace over the Barents Sea, a location where Russia deploys its force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The Russian media outlet also noted that NATO is conducting exercises in Romania.
Russia has carried out a number of similar operations against the United States, Japan, and Europe, prompting their own fighter alerts and intercepts. Russia has usually used the Tu-95 "Bear" bomber capable of firing cruise missiles, like the AS-15, in these missions.
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman
Russia has also intercepted a U.S. Navy aircraft in recent weeks, with the Russian fighter coming to within 20 feet of the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. That encounter was reportedly considered "safe" and "professional" by the Navy. Other incidents, including the buzzing of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78), have drawn protests from the Navy.
The B-52H has been part of America's arsenal since 1961. According to an Air Force fact sheet, 58 B-52s are in the active inventory, with another 18 in reserve. The B-52 has a top speed of 650 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 8,800 miles, and can carry up to 70,000 pounds of nuclear or conventional ordnance, including long-range cruise missiles like the AGM-86. It is expected to remain in service until 2040.