Skip to main content

Russia increases military flights in Pacific, U.S. general says

By Brad Lendon, CNN
updated 10:33 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
The Russian TU-95
The Russian TU-95 "Bear" is a large, four-engine turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform.
  • Russian bombers fly off Guam, California, general says
  • Increases related to tensions in Ukraine, Air Force commander says
  • Russians gathering intelligence, showing capabilities, general says

(CNN) -- Russia has stepped up military activity in the Pacific, including sending long-range bombers on flights off the coast of California and around the island of Guam, as tensions have risen in Ukraine, a top U.S. Air Force general said Monday.

"What Russia is doing in Ukraine and Crimea has a direct effect on what's happening in the Asia Pacific," Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle said in a presentation to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Russia's president annexes ... words
Heavy clashes reported in Ukraine
Analysis: Putin has already gone too far
Pro-Russian militants gain ground

"They've come with their long-range aviation off the coast of California; they circumnavigated Guam," Carlisle said, showing a picture of a U.S. F-15 fighter "intercepting" a Russian Tu-95 "Bear" bomber off the Pacific island.

Guam is home to Andersen Air Force Base, which has been used by the U.S. military for flights of B-2 and B-52 bombers across the Pacific.

Flights around Japan and the Korean peninsula have also "increased drastically," as well as naval activity in that area, Carlisle said.

The Russian planes have stayed in international airspace, and such flights are not unusual, but the increase has U.S. commanders keeping a wary eye.

"It's to demonstrate their capability to do it; it's to gather intel" from U.S. military exercises with allies in the region, Carlisle said of the reasons for the Russian activity.

"We relate a lot of that to what's going on in the Ukraine," he said.

Pro-Russian separatists have taken control over swaths of Ukraine near its borders with Russia.

Ukraine's government and many in the West believe that the separatists are backed by Russia and fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is fomenting trouble to increase his influence in the region.

Unrest has simmered in Ukraine since street protests forced out pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych in February. The interim government scheduled presidential elections this month, but pro-Russian activists in the eastern part of the country refuse to accept Kiev's authority.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine this year after sending troops into the region.

Since the Ukraine crisis began, the U.S. and its NATO allies have moved some troops, aircraft and ships closer to the area as a signal of alliance solidarity.

The Russian bomber flights are not unique to the Asia Pacific region. In late April, fighter jets from the Netherlands intercepted two Tu-95s that had flown a half-mile into Dutch airspace. The Dutch F-16s escorted the Russian aircraft out of Dutch airspace without incident.

Part of complete coverage on
U.S. military
updated 7:39 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. Army plans to launch two stationary "blimps" at 10,000-feet in the air next week to better protect the Washington D.C. area from cruise missiles and other possible air attacks.
updated 9:12 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
The U.S. Navy says its new laser weapon works and it will use it if it has to.
updated 8:46 PM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
A combination of old and new hooked up off the coast of San Diego Monday to give the U.S. Navy a glimpse into its future.
updated 8:20 PM EDT, Sun October 12, 2014
The U.S. Navy is getting ready to "swarm" its adversaries.
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
The U.S. Navy's oldest nuclear aircraft carrier has given a piece of itself to one the younger carriers in the fleet.
updated 4:39 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
A winged piece of history sits parked at a small airport.
updated 12:57 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
When a flight of military helicopters descended into a field in the small village of Gruta, Poland, on Tuesday, residents had reason to be alarmed.
updated 1:35 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
A storied former U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is on its final voyage Friday, a slow voyage from Rhode Island to a scrapyard in Texas.
updated 7:10 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Call it part tank, part boat and part beer cooler. But it's unquestionably all cool.
updated 12:26 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014