MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia expressed surprise on Tuesday that the United States had scrambled fighter jets at the weekend to intercept strategic Russian bombers, one of which flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific.
Four U.S. F/A-18 fighters were launched after Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying south of Japan were detected turning towards the Nimitz aircraft carrier and its escort, a U.S. defense official said.
One of the Russian 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.
“It is standard operating procedure for U.S. planes to escort aircraft flying in the vicinity of U.S. Navy ships,” the U.S. defense official said.
The Russian Air Force said the February 9 mission by four Tu-95s was part of long-distance patrols of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans and the Black Sea begun in August last year.
It said all flights were made over neutral waters, did not breach international borders and all concerned parties were notified in advance.
“We are surprised by all the clamor this raised,” RIA news agency quoted Russian Air Force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky as saying.
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.
Russian officials say they will revive some of the military power and reach lost following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Reporting by Kristin Roberts in Washington and Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow; Editing by Jon Boyle
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