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BEARS OFF THE WEST COAST

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Russian Bombers Probe West Coast, Guam
By Harold Hutchison

Days after Russian Tu-95 bombers probed the defenses of the United Kingdom and were intercepted by British and Dutch fighters, Russian strategic bombers have been seen off the coast of California and near the island of Guam.

1974 photo of Tu-95
Photo by U.S. Navy

According to media reports, the Russian bombers, which were not specifically identified, were intercepted by F-15s while they were circumnavigating Guam. The island is home to a United States Air Force Base, and the Navy has also used Guam as a major base in the Western Pacific.

Oregon ANG F-15s
(DOD photo)

Russia maintains three long-range strategic bombers in its inventory, all of which were manufactured by Tupelov: The Tu-22M Backfire, the Tu-95 Bear, and the Tu-160 Blackjack. All three were manufactured during the Cold War.

The Tu-22M Backfire is the backbone of the Russian strategic bomber force, with 161 airframes in service between the Long-Range Aviation Branch of the Russian Air Force and Russian Naval Aviation. The Russians also have 63 Tu-95 strategic bombers in their inventory, as well as 16 Tu-160 Blackjacks in service.

By comparison, the United States Air Force has 85 B-52s, 66 B-1B Lancers, and 20 B-2 Spirit bombers.