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Газета Nezavisimaya Gazeta Интернет-версия

03.12.1999 00:00:00

U.S. fighter jets challenge Russian bombers over Iceland


Military history will probably record that one of the most dramatic and instructive episodes of last June"s West-99 maneuvers happened in the Volga region and involved the 37th Air Army of the Supreme Command of the Russian Army.

The maneuvers began with strategic aviation pilots doing operational and strategic reconnaissance of Poland, Norway, Finland and several other European countries, as well as sea and ocean areas in northwestern Europe. Then it was Tu-22M3 bombers" turn. Four of them, stationed at airbases in Soltsy and Shaykovka, were to destroy a target protected by powerful air-defense.
The bombers were using supersonic aero-ballistic missiles X-15 considered by many military analysts as the most advanced weapon of its kind in the world.

What made this even more interesting was the fact that for the first time in many years missile-carrying bombers were matched against S-300PM missile anti-aircraft systems.
Colonel General Victor Kozlov, commander of the Gagarin Military Academy, declined to comment on who won. But, according to our sources, it was the air force. This was hardly a surprise: unlike its latest modifications, the S-300PM"s specialty is low-speed cruise missiles.
At the next round of training the key role was played by strategic missile carriers of the 22 Air Guard Division. For the first time in many years they flew from the Engels air base to the North Atlantic, reaching the ranges for launching cruise missiles.

In the course of the 12-hour mission two Tu-160 bombers made a mock launch of X-55SM missiles from a sea area north of Britain. Real missiles were launched at targets in southern Russia on the return flight.
Two Tu-95MS had a more difficult mission. After flying around Iceland (without entering its air space), they were twice refueled in midair and then launched X-55 missiles at targets in Russia. Their mission lasted 15 hours.

Both the Tu-160s and Tu-95MSs were challenged by NATO fighter jets. The Tu-160s were met off the Norway cost by American F-16s from the air base in Bode. F-15Ss from the Keflavik base staged a mock attack on the two Tu-95MSs.

The Russian bombers were flying without the protection of fighter jets. Russia has a limited number of fighters capable of flying long missions and is mostly used to protect strategic bombers in the Russian airspace.


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