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    Russian Bear bombers join final drills in N. Atlantic

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    Six Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers joined on Tuesday a Russian naval task force in the Atlantic to take part in the final stage of the current naval exercise, an Air Force spokesman said.

    MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Six Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers joined on Tuesday a Russian naval task force in the Atlantic to take part in the final stage of the current naval exercise, an Air Force spokesman said.

    During the exercises, from January 28 to February 2, Russian pilots will practice reconnaissance, missile and bomb strikes on mock adversary naval force, and will fly simulated air combat and air patrolling missions.

    "Six Tu-95MS, eight Tu-22M3 Backfire C strategic bombers and two A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning aircraft have flown today to join the final phase of the current naval exercises [in the Atlantic]," Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said.

    A total of 40 aircraft, including Tu-160 Blackjacks, Il-78 Midas aerial tankers, MiG-31 Foxhound long-range interceptors and Su-27 Flanker frontline fighter aircraft will participate in the drills, he said.

    The aircraft are expected to fly at least 40 training sorties during the exercise.

    Drobyshevsky reiterated that all flights by Russian aircraft would be performed in strict compliance with international rules on the use of air space over neutral waters, without violating the borders of other states.

    Russia's naval task force, comprising the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, the Udaloy-Class destroyers Admiral Levchenko and Admiral Chabanenko, as well as auxiliary vessels, is currently on a two-month tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic.

    The flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva guided missile cruiser, joined up with Russian naval warships in the Mediterranean on January 18 to participate in the current maneuvers.

    The current operation is the first large-scale Russian Navy exercise in the Atlantic in 15 years. All combat ships and aircraft involved carry full combat ammunition loads.

    Commander of Russia's Northern Fleet Vice-Admiral Nikolai Maksimov, who is heading the task force, earlier said that the current tour of duty in the Mediterranean, which started on December 5, was aimed at ensuring Russia's naval presence "in key operational areas of the world's oceans" and establishing conditions for secure Russian maritime navigation.

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