US Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker said in an interview with RCN Radio the Russian Tu-160 (NATO reporting name Blackjack) strategic bombers that recently arrived in Venezuela are "not provocations" since "such old planes […] are actually museum pieces". Whitaker also alleged that Moscow was sending some kind of message by redeploying the bombers to Venezuela, but didn't specify what it was.
The arrival of the Russian strategic bombers in Venezuela sparked criticism from the US and neighbouring Colombia, but the Russian Foreign Ministry has assured that the bombers were not carrying nuclear weapons on board.
The Tupolev Tu-160, known in Russia as the White Swan due to its huge white wings with a 55m span, is a supersonic strategic bomber developed in the early 1980s and which was commissioned in 1987. The jet is capable of reaching a speed of Mach 2 and flying up to 12,300km without refuelling. Tu-160 can also carry up to 40,000kg of ordnance, such as 6 Raduga cruise missiles or 12 Kh-15 (NATO reporting name AS-16 Kickback) short-range nuclear missiles.
The Tu-160 received a massive upgrade in 2005 (afterwards referred to as the Tu-160M2), receiving not only new engines, avionics, and electronic systems, but also a new coating based on stealth technology.