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MOSCOW, October 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russian strategic bombers will conduct training flights with full combat payloads and live fire all cruise missiles on board for the first time in over two decades, an Air Force spokesman said.

 

The live firing exercises in Russia's northern latitudes on October 6-12 are part of the Stability-2008 strategic maneuvers in various regions of Russia and Belarus with the goal of practicing strategic deployment of the Armed Forces, including the nuclear triad, to counter potential threats near the Russian border.

 

"During these exercises, for the first time in many years, the crews of Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear-H strategic bombers will fly missions carrying the maximum combat payload and fire all the cruise missiles on board," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said.

 

Tu-95MS and Tu-160 aircraft can carry six and 12 Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) long-range cruise missiles respectively.

 

Drik said that the scope of the exercises would be unprecedented and involve, apart from the Tu-160s and Tu-95s, the Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers, air superiority fighters, interceptors and aerial tankers.

 

"The number and variety of aircraft involved in the drills shows the wide range of tasks that will be accomplished during the week-long exercise," the spokesman said.

 

Former Air Force commander, General of the Army Pyotr Deynekin, said Russian Tu-95 bombers had conducted live firing of all their cruise missiles only once before, in 1984.

 

"Tu-160 bombers have never done this because it is very expensive," the general said.

 

According to various sources, in addition to 16 Tu-160 bombers the Russian Air Force currently has 40 Tu-95MS bombers and 141 Tu-22M3 bombers in service.

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