USA — Russland

Admi­ral Calls USS Nimitz Inci­dent ‘Benign’

By Fred W. Bak­er III
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2008 — The chief of naval oper­a­tions today down­played the low flight of a Russ­ian Tu-95 over the air­craft car­ri­er USS Nimitz in the west­ern Pacif­ic Ocean.

The Tu-95 flew over the Nimitz at about 2,000 feet while anoth­er bomber flew near­by Feb. 9, but both were escort­ed by U.S. air­craft and the event did not even war­rant a call to “gen­er­al quar­ters” or for crews to man bat­tle sta­tions, Navy Adm. Gary Roug­head said.

“I did not con­sid­er it to be provoca­tive,” he told reporters at a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence. “We knew they were com­ing. We saw them com­ing. We detect­ed them at the appro­pri­ate time. We launched our alert air­craft, who escort­ed the Russ­ian air­craft. From my per­spec­tive, every­thing worked exact­ly as we are trained to do and as we expect our peo­ple and our com­man­ders to per­form.”

Roug­head, who trained to fight the Sovi­et navy as a young offi­cer, said he sees the event as a sig­nal that the Russ­ian navy is try­ing to emerge as a glob­al enti­ty.

“My sense is that they are stretch­ing their wings, so to speak,” Roug­head said.

When the Russ­ian air­craft turned toward the Nimitz, four F/A‑18 fight­er jets inter­cept­ed and escort­ed them until they left the Nimitz’s oper­at­ing area.

Roug­head said he has not asked for an expla­na­tion of the event from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, adding that no pro­tec­tive air­space is des­ig­nat­ed around craft oper­at­ing in inter­na­tion­al waters.

“It was a very benign flight that came through, and we just latched on to them and fol­lowed them in,” the admi­ral said. “I know I’m not play­ing this up very much, but that’s the way I see it. They came out to look. We joined up (and) flew with them until they went home.”

In total, four Russ­ian Tu-95 bombers were involved, a Navy spokesman said. Two remained about 500 miles east of the U.S. ships, and anoth­er orbit­ed about 50 miles away as the one Tu-95 did two low pass­es over the Nimitz car­ri­er group, he said.

Asked about the inci­dent at a Sen­ate Bud­get Com­mit­tee hear­ing this morn­ing, Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the inci­dent rais­es ques­tions about Russia’s inten­tions in return­ing to “a Cold War mind­set,” and that the Russ­ian air­crew did “noth­ing dif­fer­ent and noth­ing unpro­fes­sion­al.”

“It is free and inter­na­tion­al air­space,” he said, “and we’re just try­ing to now go back and look what mes­sage was intend­ed by this over­flight.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)