East-Asia-Intel.com, April 25, 2012
Thirty long-range Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers, 10 Tu-22Ms Backfire bombers, and two Il-78 aerial tankers conducted a large-scale live fire exercise in Russia’s maritime territories near the Japanese border.
Russian Tu-95MS Bear strategic bomber.
The five-day exercise, which started April 16, included aerial bombing and airborne missile launches at Russia’s massive Litovka bombing range, according to the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Vladimir Drik. No further details were available.
However, Japan is clearly the intended audience for the Russian message. The two nations are becoming increasingly antagonistic due to territorial disputes over four islands north of Japan that have been occupied by Russia since the end of World War II.
In February, in a blunt display of contempt for Japan, the Russians flew two heavy bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons, two fighter escorts and one airborne command and control plane in a deliberately provocative flight path along the edge of Japan’s airspace line. Japan scrambled F-15 and F-16 combat aircraft to shadow the intruding Russian planes, as did the South Korean Air Force.