Russian strategic bombers refuel under NATO 'watch': Air Force spkmn

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Moscow, Apr 24 (UNI) Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers and two Il-78 aerial tankers performed in-flight refuelling escorted by NATO fighters during a routine patrol flight over the neutral waters of Atlantic.

''Two Tu-95 bombers and two Il-78 planes have successfully completed a 15-hour routine patrol over neutral Atlantic waters,'' Russian Air Force spokesman Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky told RIA Novosti news agency today.

''They were escorted by NATO Tornado and F-16 fighters, including during in-flight refuelling,'' Mr Drobyshevsky said.

''This element (in-flight refuelling) is considered the peak of flight proficiency, two 200-ton planes dock with each other via a flexible refuelling system at the distance of 20 meters and at the speed of 600 km/hour,'' he pointed out.

''Making this element is particularly difficult if Russia's planes are escorted by NATO fighters,'' he added.

The refuelling enables strategic Tu-160 and Tu-95 MS to perform missions during the flights that last for more than a day.

''All flights of Russia's Air Force aircraft have been and are made in strict conformity with the international laws for the airspace above neutral waters and without violating borders of other states,'' he stressed.

Escorting of Russian strategic bombers by NATO interceptors during the patrols has become a common occurrence after Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans last August, following a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin UNI XC RJ HS1734

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