Friday, March 28, 2008

Russian bombers buzz USS Nimitz: No biggie.

Maybe I'm the only one who cares, but this story kind of worries me a bit.

CNN reported this week:

"Two U.S. Air Force F-15s escorted two Russian Bear long-range bombers out of an air exclusion zone off the coast of Alaska, U.S. military officials said Wednesday. U.S. radar picked up the Russian turbo-prop Tupolev-95 planes about 500 miles off the Alaska coast. The U.S. fighters from Elmendorf Air Force Base were dispatched to meet the bombers and escorted them out of the area without incident, the officials said."

Nothing new there: Ever since Vlad the impaler Putin said "Our pilots have been grounded for too long. They are happy to start a new life," and sent his strategic bombers back on their Cold War patrols last August, Russian bombers have been getting intercepted on the outer limits of US and UK airspace almost every week. CNN counts eight incidents involving Russian bombers being escorted out of US airspace near Alaska alone since last July.

This is the part of this story that blew my mind, though:

"The last case of Russian aircraft approaching the U.S. coastline or ships in the Pacific was in February. Then, four Bear bombers flew near the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, with one of them flying about 2,000 feet from the Nimitz's deck."

What? A group of Russian bombers buzzed a US aircraft carrier?

On Feb. 12 CNN reported:

"One of them twice flew about 2,000 feet over the deck of the USS Nimitz Saturday while another flew about 50 miles away, officials said. Two others were at least 100 miles away, the military reported. U.S. defense officials said four F/A-18A fighter jets from the Nimitz were in the air. The Russians and the U.S. carrier did not exchange verbal communications."

A Russian bomber got to within 2000 feet of the Nimitz? How the hell did that happen? According to CNN, to US military officials "the incidents are not a concern. They say it's the Russian military flexing its ability and presence."

OK, so when a few guys in speedboats waved their arms and a Filiapino Monkey threatened to blow up three US warships in the Straight of Hormuz W. was ready to launch WWIII at a moments notice. A Russian bomber flies within 2000 feet of a US aircraft carrier and the Navy shrugs. Weird. No respect I guess.

Of course, I wouldn't undestimate the Russians and their planes, they may not be as high-tech as our fancypants F-18s but then again these planes are built to last. You don't see the Russians grounding their entire homeland Combat Air Patrol because of a faulty metal beam, like the US had to last November and again a month later.

And their pilots are nuts. Whereas the US Air Force has decided to give up training for the fine art of dogfighting, because of the precieved invincibility if our fancypants planes, the Russians have maintained their expertise at that acient and venorable art.

And one thing any US pilot should keep in mind about Russian pilots and their outmoded dogfighting skills; they also train on something called "Taran" or ramming.

As this wikipedia entry shows:

"In World War II, ramming became a legendary technique of VVS pilots against the Luftwaffe, especially in the early days of the hostilities in the war's Eastern Front. In the first year of the war, most available Soviet machines were considerably inferior to the German ones and the taran was sometimes perceived as the only way to guarantee the destruction of the enemy. Trading an outdated fighter for a technologically advanced bomber was considered economically sound. In some cases, pilots who were heavily wounded or in damaged aircraft decided to perform a suicidal taran attack against air, ground or naval targets. In this instance, taran becomes more like an unpremeditated kamakazi attack ."

Then as now, the Russians know they're no match for NATO forces, but they have the advantage when it comes to cost and guts.

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