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Russia's strategic bombers: facts

AFP | August 17, 2007

Russia, which on Friday announced the resumption of strategic bomber flights, has a fleet of 80 long-range aircraft, most of them from the Soviet era and capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The 37th Strategic Air Army consists of 64 Tupolev-95 "Bear" aircraft and 16 Tupolev-160 "Blackjack" planes, according to the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies' publication "The Military Balance 2007."

Military publications group Jane's said Russia's strategic aerial capacity is inherited from the Soviet Union and has "declined significantly" since the mid-1990s.

In recent years, the emphasis has shifted towards conventional bombing missions in low-intensity conflicts and appears better prepared to provide support for combat troops in asymmetrical warfare, it added.

"Blackjacks" and "Bears" each carry eight 200 kilotonne Kh-55 nuclear missiles, which have a range of 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles).

The "Bear", the first models of which entered service in 1955, is a four-engined turbo-prop with a range of more than 10,000 kilometres.

The "Bear H", which carries nuclear weapons, made its first flight in September 1979. It is expected to remain operational until 2010 to 2015.

The Tupolev 160 "Blackjack" is the counterpart to the US strategic bomber the B-1B. It can travel up to 14,000 kilometres depending on what weapons it is carrying. Its first flight was in 1981.

Russian strategic bombers are based in Engels, near Saratov, south of Moscow, and Ukrainka, near Svobodny, in Siberia.

The country's strategic air force also consists of about 60 Tu-22 "Backfire" bombers, which have a nuclear capacity but are used on conventional missions.

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