Russian bombers intercepted near U.S. Navy vessel

WASHINGTON Mon Feb 11, 2008 6:01pm EST

Sailors stand in formation before boarding the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in Coronado, California January 24, 2008. Russian bomber aircraft approached a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific on Saturday and were intercepted by American fighter jets, a U.S. defense official said on Monday. REUTERS/Fred Greaves

Sailors stand in formation before boarding the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in Coronado, California January 24, 2008. Russian bomber aircraft approached a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific on Saturday and were intercepted by American fighter jets, a U.S. defense official said on Monday.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Greaves

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russian bomber aircraft approached a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific on Saturday and were intercepted by American fighter jets, a U.S. defense official said on Monday.

The bombers, flying south of Japan, were detected turning toward the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and its accompanying ships. Four U.S. F/A-18 fighters were launched to intercept the Russian aircraft, the official said.

One of the Russian "Bear" bombers flew over the deck of the Nimitz, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. fighters escorted the Russian bombers out of the area where the Nimitz was operating.

"Nimitz launched aircraft to intercept and escort the Russian aircraft in the vicinity of the aircraft carrier," the official said. "It is standard operating procedure for U.S. planes to escort aircraft flying in the vicinity of U.S. Navy ships."

A Russian bomber last flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier in July 2004, when a Bear flew over the USS Kitty Hawk in the Sea of Japan, the official said.

Russian bombers have ramped up their flights near U.S. territory and U.S. naval assets over the past year, demonstrating their long-range strike capability. In August, Russian bombers were tracked flying a course toward Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific

Those operations come as Russian officials say they will revive some of the military power and reach allowed to collapse with the Soviet Union.

(Reporting by Kristin Roberts, editing by Todd Eastham)