Four Russian strategic bombers circled the U.S. island of Guam last week in what U.S. defense officials say is the latest in a series of nuclear provocations by Moscow.
The bombers, flying in pairs, were identified by air defenses as Tu-95 Bear H nuclear-capable aircraft that circumnavigated the strategic U.S. military outpost on Friday—amid heightened tensions with Moscow regarding a new buildup of Russian forces in and along the border of eastern Ukraine.
A Pacific Command spokesman had no immediate comment. Two defense officials confirmed the incident. It could not be learned if U.S. jets intercepted the bombers.
Friday’s flights were the second time in the past two years that Russia conducted unusual long-range bomber missions around the island. Two Tu-95s circled the island on Feb. 12, 2013 and were intercepted by F-15 jets.
The latest bomber flights around the island, located 4,000 miles southeast of Hawaii, appeared timed to coincide with the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia and come amid new tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
The flights took place a day before President Obama arrived in Brisbane for the summit where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The flights also came after Moscow announced plans to conduct long-range strategic bomber flights over the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Nov. 12 that “we have to maintain [Russia’s] military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico,” adding that dispatches of bombers would be “part of the drills.”
Shoigu said the flights are “connected to the situation in Ukraine, with the emerging anti-Russia inclinations on the part of NATO and the increasing foreign military presence in the immediate vicinity of our borders.”
Guam is the U.S. military’s most important strategic hub in the Asia Pacific and the key base for the Pentagon’s new “Air Sea Battle” concept that calls for closer coordination of Air Force and Navy forces to counter China.
The Air Force regularly deploys B-52 and B-2 bombers to Guam and the long-range Global Hawk drone also operates from the island.
The Navy has deployed three attack submarines to Guam and plans to add a fourth as part of the so-called Asia pivot.
The 2013 Russian bomber incursion around Guam came shortly before President Obama’s state of the union message.
Russia in recent years has stepped up aerial incursions into U.S. air defense zones in both the western and eastern coasts. One bomber incursion near Canada’s east coast was assessed by U.S. intelligence agencies as a practice for a nuclear cruise missile strike on the United States.
The closest encounter came in June when two bombers came within 50 miles of California in what military officials said was the nearest Russian strategic aircraft had flown since the Cold War.
“The nuclear bomber provocations have been going on since 2007 but clearly have reached an unprecedented level in 2014,” said Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon official involved in strategic nuclear policy.
Full article: Russian Bombers Threaten Guam (Washington Free Beacon)