A pair of Russian long range strategic nuclear bombers flew close to the U.S. Pacific island of Guam last week (for a third time) as other bombers flew close to Alaska and Europe, according to the Defense Department.
Such moves are highly provocative in nature, because its understood that these aircraft can carry nuclear weapons.
The strategic bombers made the flight around Guam (a key U.S. military hub in the western Pacific) on Dec. 13. 2014 According to reports no U.S. fighter aircraft or jets were dispatched to shadow the bombers. However their trajectory and course were undoubtedly being tracked moment by moment by satellites in space.
Separately, two Canadian F-18s intercepted two Bear bombers that intruded into the Alaska air defense identification zone on Dec. 8 2014 in what a military spokesman called “unwanted, provocative, and potentially destabilizing.”
The aircraft were identified as Russian made Tupolev Tu-95 bombers.
The Tupolev have a Max. speed at 25,000 ft 575 mph, at S/L 404 mph, nominal cruising speed 442 mph, ceiling 39,370 ft, combat radius with 25,000 lb payload 3,975 miles, with one in-flight refueling 5,155 miles. They are the workhorse of the Russian strategic nuclear bomber fleet.
It is rumored that Bear is known to be able to out accelerate contemporary western interceptors. This hard to believe fact can be accounted by use of variable-pitch propellers of NK-12M turboprops.
Modern jets need to use afterburners to keep up with an accelerating Bear. Presumably, Bear holds an unofficial speed record for a prop-driven aircraft…not bad for a design that has been in existence for over 50 years now.
The original Tu-95 was designed to carry two nuclear bombs to targets deep inside the continental US.
Later versions carried nuclear tipped cruise missiles for long-range stand-off missions with ranges in excess of 2,500 km (1,350 nmi).
The Bear has also been used for reconnaissance, especially by the Soviet/Russian Navy which used the aircraft to locate US aircraft carrier task forces.
See rare video: Tupolev Tu -95 Bear firing cruise missile and inflight refueling operation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdjfsRd0HLI