Russian Nuclear-Capable Bombers Circumnavigate Japan
On Tuesday, January 26, Japan’s Ministry of Defense revealed that the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force had scrambled jets in response to two Russian Tu-95MS “Bear” strategic bombers near its air space. According to a map released by the Japanese government, the two Russian bombers approached Japanese airspace from Russia’s Primorsky province, flying over the Sea of Japan, and eventually flew along the perimeter of Japan’s territorial airspace, encompassing the four main Japanese islands of Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido, before returning to Russia.
The incident isn’t the first incident involving Russian strategic bombers near Japanese airspace by any means. Moscow regularly conducts such activities and Japan scrambles fighters to ensure that its territorial airspace isn’t violated.
However, the Tu-95′s flight path in this instance—along the perimeter of Japan’s islands—appears more provocative than usual. Generally, Russian bombers fly long-distance runs. For instance, Russian Tu-95s have been known to fly the length of the Ryukyu Island chain before returning to Russian airspace. (I discussed one such incident here at The Diplomat in late 2013.) Last March, Japan intercepted and escorted a Tu-95 over the Korean Strait between South Korea and Kyushu.