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Sun, Mar 22, 2009

US Naval Ships In Sea Of Japan Buzzed By Russian Planes

Ships Were Conducting Drills With South Koreans In International Waters

US military officials last week said Russian planes overflew two US Naval ships participating in military exercises with South Korea. The ships were in international waters in the Sea of Japan.

On Monday, the USS John C. Stennis was buzzed by a Russian Ilyushin IL-38 "May" maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft flying at 500 feet, perhaps the lowest flyover to date. The USS Stennis is a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier, and its home port is Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, WA.

Tuesday, two Russian Tupolev Tu-95MS "Bear" long-range bombers overflew the USS Stennis and the USS Blue Ridge several times at about 2,000 feet. The USS Blue Ridge is a Blue Ridge-class command ship, based at Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan.

On both days, US fighter jets were scrambled in response to the overflights. The Russian planes refused to answer repeated calls on international air frequency radio channels and were escorted out of the area, CNN reported.

As ANN reported, last month a similar scenario was played out when four US F/A-18 jets were scrambled to intercept a Russian Tu-95MS "Bear" bomber as it flew at 2,000 feet above the USS Nimitz, operating south of Japan -- the latest in a series of increasingly bold gestures by a resurgent Russian air force.

Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright said such encounters usually end without incident, but raise big questions. "Now what we are concerned about is, 'What are the indications of this return to a Cold War mindset?' What are the implications of that activity, and how do we best address that?"

Standard practices from our standpoint are to "intercept, escort, follow them through, and then follow them until they are out of range of the battle group's normal operations," Cartwright said.

Such interceptions and disputes over them were common during the Cold War when Soviet bombers regularly flew missions over neutral waters. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the flights became less common and even stopped for a time. Recent moves by the Russian government to assert its military power in the international arena has given rise to the flights once again.

FMI: www.navy.mil

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