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Friday, 1 December, 2000, 18:18 GMT
Russian bombers back in the cold
Tu-95 bomber
Cold War veteran: the Tu-95 bomber
The Russian air force has resumed flights in the Arctic region after a 10-year break, prompting the United States and Canada to deploy aircraft at their forward bases in Alaska and western Canada.

The press service of the Russian Air Force confirmed on Friday that seven Tupolev 95MS strategic bombers had been stationed at the Anadyr, Tiksi and Vorkuta bases in the country's Far North.

Map
Russian TV shows the Arctic area
The bombers can carry cruise missiles and nuclear warheads. They have a range of up to 11,000km, which would allow them to cross the Bering Strait and approach Alaska.

A Pentagon spokesman told AFP on Thursday that in response to the Russian move F-15 Eagles and CF-18 Hornets had been deployed at bases in Alaska and Canada.

Major Jamie Robertson, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command, said: "The fighters are in place, and some of the tankers and air surveillance aircraft are moving up."

Pilot training

A Russian air force spokesman said there was nothing special about the deployments.

Cockpit
Russian bomber pilots need more flying time
He said they were part of a scheduled pilot training programme for a region which is known for its complicated weather conditions and strong geomagnetic fluctuations, he told the Russian independent television station NTV.

"The average flying time for Russian long-range aviation pilots amounted to about 10 hours this year, while that of Nato pilots was up to 180 or even 280 hours," he added.

During the Cold War, Russian Tu-95 bombers flew regular missions towards Alaska, but these came to a halt after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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31 Dec 99 | Americas
US detects Russian missiles
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