Training flights of Russia bombers in Latin America success

Training flights of Russia’s Tupolev Tu-160 strategic missile bombers that are temporarily staying in Venezuela are part of the usual training of pilots of the Russian Air Force, Deputy Commander of the Russian AF Long-Range Aviation Major-General Alexander Afinogentov told Itar-Tass in an interview on Monday.

“These flights are continuation of the existing training programme with a view to its improving in a new region,” said Afinogentov who was piloting the “Vasily Senko” missile bomber. For the first time in the Russian strategic aviation practice an exercise has been held in Latin America, he noted. The negative reaction of the United States to the training flights of the Russian strategic bombers is groundless, believes Afinogentov. “Now we have started to practice the things we had been doing back in the 1980s-90s, but this is causing a negative reaction for some reason. We are continuing the practice we had long began,” the deputy commander of the Russian Long-Range Air Force said.

The final flight of the two bombers Tu-160 passed “rather calmly over neutral waters along the Latin American coast closer to the Brazilian coast,” according to Afinogentov. He said that no dangerous actions were taken by foreign states. “We have seen no planes of surface vessels. We met no counteraction,” said General Afinogentov adding that only thunderstorms were creating obstacles. Chief of Staff of the Russian Long-Range Air Force Major-General Anatoly Zhikharev also pointed to this interference.

The Tu-160 bombers that are called “White Swans” were approaching to land on a runway of the Libertador airbase from the picturesque Lake Valencia. Chief Signals officer of the Russian Long-Range Air Force Vladimir Shevchenko, as well as operators and military specialists met them on the command post in a calm working atmosphere. Clear commands sounding, communication with the crews is perfectly steady. The most important for the strategic aviation is reliable uninterrupted communication, Shevchenko told Itar-Tass. Both during the two training flights and during the lengthy 13-hour flight from Russia to Venezuela the communication with the crews was maintained reliably and constantly, he explained.

The “Vasily Senko” missile bomber under the command of Afinogentov was the first to land at 13:42, local time (22:12, Moscow time). The strategic bomber “Alexander Molodchii” piloted by first class pilot Lieutenant-Colonel Andrei Senchurov landed in eight minutes. The training flights of the Russian strategic aviation successfully ended.

Air patrolling by Russia’s Long-Range Aviation in remote areas resumed on August 17, 2007 after a break since 1992 by a decision of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief - the President of Russia (Vladimir Putin at the time). Putin called on other countries to show understanding.

“Since 1992, the Russian Federation has unilaterally stopped flights of its strategic aviation in remote combat areas. Regrettably, not all of the countries followed suit. This has created certain problems for Russia’ s security. For this reason I have made the decision to resume flights of Russian strategic aviation,” the president said. “We proceed from the assumption that our partners will meet the resumption of such flights with understanding,” Putin said.

“I believe that our fliers sat on the ground too long. They made flights occasionally, for example, during strategic exercises, but now they are happy that they are getting a new lease on life,” he said.

The Tu-160 strategic bomber (Blackjack by NATO classification) is designed to destroy hostile targets in remote areas. Its range is up to 13,000 kilometres. It is armed with 12 cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. It can also be armed with conventional bombs up to 40 tonnes. Manned by a crew of four. The takeoff mass is 275 tonnes. Flight level is 16 kilometres.

However, on the current mission the two Tu-160 bombers of Russia’s AF carried only drill missiles, according to Commander of the Russian Long-Range Aviation Major-General Pavel Androsov. “There are training missiles on board, we always carry them during air patrolling in remote areas of the world,” Androsov said. “Pilots keep working with these training missies; it’s the purpose of combat training during flights,” he stated. He also said Russia’s Air Force had announced the flight over the Atlantic Ocean, in accordance with international rules.

The Tu-160 bomber is a supersonic, variable-geometry heavy bomber designed by the Soviet Union. The Tu-160 is the heaviest combat aircraft ever built. The aircraft is similar to the B-1 Lancer, but 430mph (692 km/h) faster than the Lancer, and possesses greater range and payload capabilities.

Introduced in 1987, it was the last Soviet strategic bomber designed, but production of the aircraft still continues, with at least 16 currently in service with the Russian Air Force. Its pilots call the Tu-160 the “White Swan,” due to the surprising manoeuvrability and antiflash white finish of the aircraft.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will on Tuesday meet with the crews of two strategic missile-carrying aircraft Tu-160, temporary staying at the Libertador airbase, the head of the public relations service of the Russian Air Force, Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Drik said on Monday. He said, “The meeting will take place on the initiative of the Venezuelan president.”

[Source: Itar Tass, Maracay, Ven, 16Sep08]

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