The incident with Russian bombers flying off the central Californian coast on July 4 got America talking about possible threats and meanings of such flights.
A pair of U.S. F-15s closed in on the two Russia Tu-95 bombers within about 39 miles of the California coast. A crew member of one of the Tu-95s radioed the Americans, saying “Good morning American pilots, we are here to greet you on your Fourth of July Independence Day.”
One U.S. defense official called such a message as “rattling sabres,” and said that such flights so close to U.S. are much more of a concern than routine U.S. aerial surveillance missions near Russian coasts.
“These are nuclear-capable bombers and that is a big problem,” the official said, as reported by Free Beacon.
What is interesting to note is that the appearance of the Tu-95 bombers near U.S. shores coincided with a telephone call made by Russian President Vladimir Putin to his counterpart Barack Obama, according to defense officials. The Russian leader congratulated the American counterpart with Independence Day and called for further dialogue.
Such a cunning strategy by Putin seems like a veiled warning to the U.S. and the Obama administration. A warning that the big bear is watching the Americans 24/7 and is willing to risk safety of its bombers in order to convey the message.
This is basically one of Putin’s ways of proving his recklessness as well as reminding the Obama administration why it should not provide lethal weapons to Ukraine. This kind of moves also prove the fact that the Russians are capable of demonstrating – if not applying – their force whenever they wish to.
Russian bombers ‘unlikely’ to carry nukes
However, it is ‘unlikely’ that Russian bombers are carrying any nuclear weapons close to U.S. shores, according to a former Air Force general. A bomber would have to carry nuclear weapons inside its fuselage, which would be not possible for people on the ground to tell if there are any nuclear weapons aboard, according to Air Force officials.
“Risking the loss of a long-range bomber like a Tu-95 with a nuclear weapon on board is a pretty big risk,” David Deptula told The Time. “It would be very imprudent to be carrying a nuclear weapons on board a flight like that.”
It must be reminded that two Russian pilots died July 14 because the Tu-95 piloted by them crashed in Russia’s Far East. Over a month before that, another Tu-95 had ran off a Russian runway after an engine fire with few crew members getting injured.
Regular flights of Russian warplanes within a vicinity of the EU and NATO members’ borders were repeatedly criticized by military departments of Latvia, Sweden, UK, Denmark and Netherlands.
Commenting on the repeated flights of Russian warplanes, Vladimir Putin pointed out that strategic aircraft have been flying outside Russian borders only during the past two-three years after a long period of time of not doing it. The Russian leader explained the intent of such flights as ‘protection of Russian interests’.
Such ‘protection of Russian [or Putin’s?] interests’ concern U.S. military officials. On Thursday, Lieut. General Robert Neller, soon to be the next commandant of the Marine Corps, named Russia as the biggest threat to the U.S. “Their actions, and the fact that they have strategic forces, make them the greatest potential threat,” Neller said.
Obama finally tackling Putin or finishing presidential term in peace?
Neller’s views coincide with the views of General Mark Milley, soon to be the Army chief of staff.
“Russia is the only country on earth that contains a nuclear capability that could destroy the United States,” General Mark Milley told the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee this Tuesday.
Neller and Milley are not alone in their views on Russia among top U.S. military officials. On July 9, during his appointment hearing to become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen Joseph Dunford called Russia’s threatening actions “nothing short of alarming.”
“So if you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,” Gen Dunford told senators.
Increasing ‘concerns’ of high-ranking U.S. military officials (some of which are about to become top commanders, chairmen, Army chiefs etc.) might mean two things.
Either Obama has finally made a decision to give Putin a strong response by appointing people who could actually deter Mr Putin’s growing appetite, or Obama is appointing such ‘mouthy’ officials just for show to make it look like the President is doing something in order to finish his presidential term in peace.
Fourth of July messages from Russian bombers is Cold War tradition
However, unofficial radio exchange and congratulations between Russian and U.S. military aircrafts’ crew members have been a some sort of tradition even during the years of the Cold War.
It all started around the ‘40s when Russian Tu-4, flying to Greenland and Alaska, were greeting U.S. B-29 and B-50 at the coasts. Such events are regularly recalled by older Russian and American citizens even though such radio exchanges were officially prohibited back then.
According to older generations, such greetings used to be a usual thing. U.S. pilots congratulated the Russian counterparts with the New Year, February 23 (Defender of the Fatherland Day), May 1 (International Workers’ Day), and May 9 (Victory Day). The Russians, in turn, congratulated the Americans with Christmas and Fourth of July, with radio exchanges being mostly in the English language.
Russian Tu-95 is a Russian strategic missile-carrier bomber, one of the fastest in its kind. The bomber boasts impressive flying range. Tu-95 is equipped with six cruise missiles with thermonuclear warheads located in the fuselage of its launching system. The bomber is capable of carrying 10 additional cruise missiles under its wings.