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    Russian Navy carrier Su-33 aircraft and combat helicopters have launched a training exercise over the Mediterranean, an aide to the Russian Navy commander said on Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, January 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Navy carrier Su-33 aircraft and combat helicopters have launched a training exercise over the Mediterranean, an aide to the Russian Navy commander said on Tuesday.

    Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said a Joint Naval Task Force, comprised of the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, the Udaloy-Class Large Anti-submarine Ship Admiral Levchenko, the Sergei Osipov auxiliary vessel, and other vessels continued to perform a variety of missions in the central part of the Mediterranean Sea.

    The Admiral Kuznetsov's main fixed-wing aircraft is the multirole Su-33 (NATO reporting name 'Flanker-D'), which can perform air superiority, fleet defense, and air support missions and can also be used for reconnaissance and the searching for naval mines.

    The two-month expedition, which started on December 5, is aimed at ensuring a naval presence "in the operationally key areas of the world oceans" and establishing conditions for secure Russian maritime navigation.

    Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said previously that a total of four warships and seven other vessels of Russia's Northern, Black Sea and Baltic Fleets, as well as 47 airplanes and 10 helicopters, would take part in the 12,000-mile expedition.

    In mid-August, Putin announced the resumption of strategic patrol flights, saying that although the country halted long-distance strategic flights to remote regions in 1992 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ensuing economic and political chaos, other nations had continued the practice, compromising Russian national security.

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