Moscow: The number of strategic bombers performing routine patrols could be doubled if the Russian General Staff makes such a decision, the commander of Russia’s strategic aviation said Tuesday.
Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans, the Black Sea and along the borders of the Commonwealth of Independent States in August 2007, following an order from then-president Vladimir Putin.
“As a rule, up to four strategic bombers perform patrol flights simultaneously. However, under specific circumstances and on orders from the General Staff, their number could be increased to up to eight aircraft,” Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev said at a news conference in Moscow.
According to the general, the bombers can continuously patrol the skies for up to 22 hours with in-flight refueling provided by Il-78 Midas aerial tankers.
“Our planes also carry out missions to detect and pinpoint the location of foreign aircraft carriers, as well as to supply missions to support the activities of [Russian] polar stations in line with the concept of the development of our Arctic zone,” Zhikarev said.
All flights by Russian aircraft are performed in strict compliance with international law on the use of airspace over neutral waters, without intruding the airspace of other states, the general reiterated.
According to various sources, in addition to 16 Tu-160 bombers, the Russian Air Force currently has 40 Tu-95MS bombers and 141 Tu-22M3 bombers in service.