A pair of Russian bomber jets reportedly practiced cruise missile attacks against targets in the United States last week, according to a report published on Monday in the Washington Free Beacon.
Bill Gertz, a writer for the Beacon, reported that two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers were tracked flying over the Labrador Sea last week in the northern Atlantic Ocean near Iceland, Greenland and Canada as part of a recent training mission.
“Analysis of the flight indicated the aircraft were conducting practice runs to a pre-determined ‘launch box’ — an optimum point for firing nuclear-armed cruise missiles at US targets,” Gertz wrote, citing unnamed defense officials he described as being familiar with intelligence reports.
The aircraft, Gertz added, are outfitted with six AS-15 nuclear-armed cruise missiles, each capable of striking targets as far away as 1,800 miles.
According to Gertz, the reported drill occurred last week at the same time that officials from the US, Canada and other allied partners met in Wales for the largest NATO summit of its kind in two years, where on the agenda, among other topics, was the escalating crisis in eastern Ukraine and potential action that could be undertaken to counter perceived Russian aggression. On the heels of that meeting, both the US and the European Union are expected to impose new sanctions against Moscow.
Disclosure of the nuclear bombing practice comes as a Russian general last week called for Moscow to change its doctrine to include preemptive nuclear strikes on the United States and NATO.
Gen. Yuri Yakubov, a senior Defense Ministry official, was quoted by the state-run Interfax news agency as saying that Russia’s 2010 military doctrine should be revised to identify the United States and the NATO alliance as enemies, and clearly outline the conditions for a preemptive nuclear strike against them.