US general: Russian long-range bombers are 'messaging' the US with provocative flights

Russian Tu-95 bombersShamil Zhumatov/ReutersRussian Tu-95 bombers fly during a joint Kazakh-Russian military exercise at Otar military range, some 150km (93 miles) west of Almaty, October 3, 2008.

Russia is using its long-range bomber fleet to “message” the US about Moscow’s international military capabilities, the US general in charge of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) said.

Defence News reports Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters on April 7 that Russian long-range bombers are increasingly flying close to the US in order to send a message to the US and make Russian presence felt.

The number of Russian bomber run incidents has steadily increased since a flare up in Russian-US tensions after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.

“They are messaging us. They are messaging us that they are a global power,” Gortney said, while noting that the US does “the same sort of thing” to Russia in Europe.

Military messaging and posturing has become a common Russian strategy. Russian bombers and fighters have increasingly started flying over the Baltics in Europe and off the coast of Japan — often with transponders turned off.

The flights themselves, while not military significant, are intended to function as political statements highlighting Russia’s growing power and international clout.

Gortney insisted that NORAD was fully aware of Russian actions.

“We watch very carefully what they are doing,” Gortney said. “They are adhering to international standards that are required by all aeroplanes that are out there, and everybody is flying in a professional manner in their side and our side as we watch very closely.”

In general, most Russian aircraft are spotted outside of the Alaska Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).

The Alaske Air Defence ZoneWikipediaThe Alaska Air Defence Zone

Since the annexation of Crimea, the number of Russian military flights close to the ADIZ has increased slightly, but the wider cause for concern is the increasing sophistication of these flights, Alaska Dispatch Newsreportsciting the deputy commander of the Alaska NORAD region.

“We are seeing more complexity in flight activity,” Col. Patrick Carpentier told Alaska Dispatch News. “The Russians have made no secret they are … making a lot of headway in modernising their weapons.”

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