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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 August 2007, 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK
Russia sparks Cold War scramble
Tu-95 Tupolev long-range bomber aircraft (file picture)
The Tu-95 pilots exchanged smiles with their US counterparts
Russian bombers have flown to the US Pacific island of Guam in a 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, a story confirmed by the US.

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.

Old practice

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

We prepared to intercept the bombers but they did not come close enough
Pentagon spokesman
"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.

A spokesman for the Pentagon confirmed that the Tu-95s were spotted heading to Guam, adding that US fighter readied themselves to repel them.

"We prepared to intercept the bombers but they did not come close enough to a US Navy ship or to the island of Guam to warrant an air-to-air intercept," the spokesman said.

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.

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