Interceptions of Russian combat aircraft by NATO fighters are becoming a common occurrence again, after Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans last August, following an order signed by President Vladimir Putin
"During the flights the crews develop their flying skills in northern latitudes, over unmarked terrain," Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said.
He said the crews also perfect their in-flight refueling techniques, allowing the bombers to remain in the air for more than 24 hours and is considered extremely difficult "especially when the Russian planes are accompanied by NATO interceptors."
"All Russian Air Force flights are performed...in strict accordance with international rules on the use of airspace over neutral waters without violating the borders of other states," he also said.
Although it was common practice during the Cold War for both the U.S. and the Soviet Union to keep nuclear strategic bombers permanently airborne, the Kremlin cut long-range patrols in 1992. The decision came as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the ensuing economic and political chaos.
However, the newly-resurgent Russia, awash with petrodollars, has invested heavily in military technology, and the resumption of long-range patrols is widely seen among political commentators as another sign of its drive to assert itself both militarily and politically.