Russian bomber buzzes USS Nimitz strike group
The U.S. Pacific Command closely monitored a Russian Tupolev-95 bomber flying over the USS Nimitz aircraft strike group last weekend, Rear Adm. Charles Martoglio said yesterday.
Martoglio, who oversees all operations in the Pacific Command, told reporters: "We knew they were there. We knew they were coming and we reacted appropriately."
The Associated Press reported that the Russian bomber on Saturday flew over the Nimitz twice, at a low altitude of about 2,000 feet, while another bomber circled about 58 miles out.
As the bombers got about 500 miles out from the Nimitz strike group -- which included the Pearl Harbor-based destroyer USS Chafee -- four F/A-18 Hornet fighters were launched from the Nimitz. The fighters intercepted the Russian bombers about 50 miles south of the Nimitz.
At least two Hornets trailed one of the bombers as it came in low over the Nimitz twice, while one or two of the other U.S. fighters followed the second bomber as it circled nearby.
This is the first time Russian Tu-95s, known as Bears, have flown over or interacted with a U.S. carrier since 2004. Russian encounters with U.S. ships were common during the Cold War, but have been rare since then. Russia revived the Soviet-era practice of long-range patrols by strategic bombers over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans last August.
The bombers were among four launched from a Far Eastern base, including one that Japanese officials say violated their country's airspace over an uninhabited island south of Tokyo.
The head of the Russian air force information service said the Russian bombers "were carrying out their assigned flights" and were in strict compliance with the international airspace rules.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.