Former US Air Force officers fear that Russian bombers are flying nuclear strike drills over the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea.
(Metro.co.uk) Their startling admissions come after NATO air defences were forced into action on October 28th, monitoring and intercepting four groups of Russian combat jets over the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Black Sea.
Specific aircraft intercepted includes the gigantic, propeller driven TU-95, which often acts as a launch platform for the Raduga Kh-55, a missile with a range of 1,600 nautical miles and a 200 kiloton nuclear warhead.
Speaking to The Daily Beast, they said that the intercepted aircraft may be carrying out nuclear strike drills, or at the very least, an ‘effort to gauge the reaction times of the west’s defences.’
Lt.Gen. David Deptula told the website that ‘it is not farfetched that at some point within the next two years, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin makes a more aggressive move in Eastern Europe and uses a nuclear threat to deter a NATO response’.
Mark Gunzinger, a former B-52 pilot added: ‘Our bomber crews regularly fly training sorties for their full range of potential missions, including strategic deterrence practice missions’.
He continued: ‘The Russian Air Force has never stopped flying training sorties, but it’s apparent that the scope of this one if catching people’s attention’.
When pressed to answer whether the recent flights were nuclear drills, he replied: ‘that is probably the case’.
However, Rebecca Grant, president of IRIS Independent Research, said that the display of Russian air power was simply just the latest incident in a long history of antagonising moves by Russia.
She added: ‘I don’t read this as a specific nuclear or conventional scenario practice, rather an exercise in long-range navigation and provocation. It’s clearly designed to annoy NATO but from a purely tactical perspective, this was still a pretty small display of airpower’.
The RAF was also forced to intercept Russian ‘bear’ aircraft yesterday, after Typhoon fighter crafts were deployed from RAF Lossiemouth. The pilots identified the aircraft before escorting them through international air space.
Air Vice Marshal Gary Waterfall said: ‘Behind every successful intercept there is a team on the ground from almost every branch and trade in the Air Force, either directly involved or supporting those who are.’
‘We are all committed to ensuring that whether it is a Russian Bear or a suspect airliner, each incident is responded to appropriately, managed successfully and resolved peacefully.’
The Metro approached the Ministry Of Defence for comment, but they are yet to respond to the stark claims made in the article.