|Tupolev Tu-160 RF-94109 courtesy of Alex Beltyukov|
The Tu-160 bombers, which can carry six standard cruise missiles and 12 short-range nuclear missiles and fly at speeds greater than two times the speed of sound, were accompanied by Tu-95MS strategic bombers and Il-78 tankers during the exercises, according to The Moscow Times. A total of ten Russian aircraft reportedly participated in the drills.
The Tu-160 bombers reportedly flew more than 4,000 miles from their home base in Saratov in southwestern Russia to Anadyr on the Chukotka Peninsula, which faces Alaska across the Bering Strait, the Associated Press reported.
Under the command of Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash, the bombers practiced striking targets at Komi range before taking off across the Arctic Ocean. The two aircraft crews refueled in mid-air and then returned to their home base.
While the latest flight was the first time Tu-160 bombers, production of which was restarted to boost foreign patrols in response to an increase in regional tensions, have ventured close to Alaska, it is not the first time Russian bombers have done so.
In May, two US Air Force F-22 stealth fighter jets intercepted two Tupolev Tu-95 Russian nuclear-capable bombers that came within 55 miles of Alaska's west coast, The Washington Free Beacon first reported. The bomber flights announced Thursday come amid escalating tensions between the US and Russia.