Russia just scrambled fighters to intercept an American bomber
Russia has recently been in the news for its aggressive bomber patrols. Well, the United States has apparently flipped the script with the Russians and done a little bomber patrolling of its own.
According to a report by Reuters, at least one Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker was scrambled to intercept a Air Force B-52H Stratofortress that was flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea along Russia's border.
Russia Today reported that the B-52 intercept was followed by Moscow scrambling a MiG-31 Foxhound to intercept a Norwegian P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The Norwegian plane was operating in international airspace over the Barents Sea, a location where Russia deploys its force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The Russian media outlet also noted that NATO is conducting exercises in Romania.
Russia has carried out a number of similar operations against the United States, Japan, and Europe, prompting their own fighter alerts and intercepts. Russia has usually used the Tu-95 "Bear" bomber capable of firing cruise missiles, like the AS-15, in these missions.
Russia has also intercepted a U.S. Navy aircraft in recent weeks, with the Russian fighter coming to within 20 feet of the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. That encounter was reportedly considered "safe" and "professional" by the Navy. Other incidents, including the buzzing of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78), have drawn protests from the Navy.
The B-52H has been part of America's arsenal since 1961. According to an Air Force fact sheet, 58 B-52s are in the active inventory, with another 18 in reserve. The B-52 has a top speed of 650 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 8,800 miles, and can carry up to 70,000 pounds of nuclear or conventional ordnance, including long-range cruise missiles like the AGM-86. It is expected to remain in service until 2040.