US fighter jets launched to escort Russian bombers away from aircraft carrier

Russia says its Bear aircraft were carrying out 'scheduled flights over neutral waters'

Jon Sharman
Wednesday 01 November 2017 14:42
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USS Ronald Reagan conducts joint drills with the South Korean navy
USS Ronald Reagan conducts joint drills with the South Korean navy

US Navy fighter jets took off to shadow a pair of Russian bombers after they reportedly approached the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan.

Two F/A-18 Hornets scrambled from the 100,000-tonne carrier to escort the Russian TU-95s on Sunday, according to US officials.

The meeting was categorised as safe and professional, the defence officials told CNN.

Russia's defence ministry was cited by Sputnik, a state-controlled website, as saying: "Two Russian Tu-95MS Bear bombers carried out scheduled flights over neutral waters of the Sea of Japan and the western part of the Pacific Ocean."

The Hornets had "closely followed" the bombers, Sputnik said. Japanese fighters, including an F-15, F-2A and a Vietnam-era F4 Phantom, also tailed the Russian planes, the site added.

The Reagan was operating in the Sea of Japan at the time, CNN said.

It is one of three nuclear-powered US supercarriers now in the western Pacific, after the Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt sailed into the region within hours of each other last week.

The show of strength came as President Donald Trump was preparing for his second major foreign tour, this time around several Asian nations.

Mr Trump will begin the trip with a briefing by US Pacific Command in Hawaii on Friday, before moving on to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The deployments and tour come at a time of heightened tension with North Korea, and months of Mr Trump and Kim Jong-un trading insults and threats over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

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