"They Are Stretching Their Wings, So To Speak"
The chief of naval operations downplayed the low flight of a
Russian Tu-95 over the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the western
As ANN reported, the Tu-95
flew over the Nimitz at about 2,000 feet while another bomber flew
nearby February 9 -- but both were escorted by US aircraft and the
event did not even warrant a call to "general quarters" or for
crews to man battle stations, Navy Adm. Gary Roughead said.
"I did not consider it to be provocative," he told reporters at
a Pentagon news conference Tuesday. "We knew they were coming. We
saw them coming. We detected them at the appropriate time. We
launched our alert aircraft, who escorted the Russian aircraft.
From my perspective, everything worked exactly as we are trained to
do and as we expect our people and our commanders to perform."
Roughead, who trained to fight the Soviet navy as a young
officer, said he sees the event as a signal that the Russian navy
is trying to emerge as a global entity. "My sense is that they are
stretching their wings, so to speak," Roughead said.
When the Russian aircraft turned toward the Nimitz, four F/A-18
fighter jets intercepted and escorted them until they left the
Nimitz's operating area.
Roughead said he has not asked for an explanation of the event
from the Russian government, adding that no protective airspace is
designated around craft operating in international waters.
"It was a very benign flight that came through, and we just
latched on to them and followed them in," the admiral said. "I know
I'm not playing this up very much, but that's the way I see it.
They came out to look. We joined up (and) flew with them until they
In total, four Russian Tu-95 bombers were involved, a Navy
spokesman said. Two remained about 500 miles east of the US ships,
and another orbited about 50 miles away as the one Tu-95 did two
low passes over the Nimitz carrier group, he said.
Asked about the incident at a Senate Budget Committee hearing
this morning, Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, said the incident raises questions about Russia's
intentions in returning to "a Cold War mindset," and that the
Russian aircrew did "nothing different and nothing
"It is free and international airspace," he said, "and we're
just trying to now go back and look what message was intended by
(ANN thanks Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service,
for this report)