From Bill Gertz, the Washington Times: The Russian military responded to comments in this space last week by Navy Adm. James Winnefeld, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, who stated that increases of Russian strategic bomber flights near the U.S. and Canada airspace over the past several years were an attempt by Moscow to maintain the "illusion of power."
A high-ranking but unidentified senior Russian military officer told the state-run Interfax-AVN news agency Monday that "the main reason for the flights is not to create the illusion of power; but to improve flying skills of strategic bombers’ crews, which has continued for a long time, on a planned and systemic basis."
"As for the American admiral’s words that they supposedly do not react to our flights, this is surely their right and business," he said.
Adm. Winnefeld stated that U.S. F-15 and F-22 jet interceptors and Canadian CF-18 do not shadow all Tu-95 Bear bombers that run up against North American airspace. Doing so would fuel Russian propaganda, he said. …
According to the [U.S. Northern Command], aerospace forces detected and tracked five Russian bomber incursions so far this year, and two of the bomber flights were met with U.S. or Canadian jet interceptors. The interceptors normally used for the incursions are F-15s or F-22s, or Canadian CF-18 jets.
In 2009, there were 17 incursions and 16 of the bombers were met by U.S. or Canadian fighter jets. In 2008, the Russians flew 12 bomber missions near North American airspace, prompting 11 jet intercepts. The 2007 figure was 18 bomber flights and 17 intercepts. And the period between 1999 and 2006 saw 11 detected encounters with Bear bombers, of which eight were intercepted by jets. (photo: USAF)