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Canada scrambles fighters Friday, 1 December 2000 21:29 (ET)

Canada scrambles fighters

OTTAWA, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- For the first time since the Soviet Union collapsed a decade ago, a Cold War atmosphere returned to Canada's far north this week after Russia deployed some of its aging bombers at bases near the U.S. and Canadian borders in the Arctic region.

Canada moved three of its CF-18s from Cold Lake, Alberta, to an air base in the Arctic region, following an alert from NORAD, the North American air defense command to which Canada and the United States belong.

NORAD's move came amid warnings that the Russian planes may begin probing U.S. and Canadian air defenses in the region, reviving a Soviet-era practice of testing how quickly U.S. and Canadian forces could respond.

The Canadians deployed their fighter jets in the Arctic region at the same time that the United States reportedly deployed three of its jets in the Alaska region.

The Russians say they have simply deployed their planes in the Arctic as part of their military training, but defense experts in Canada said the Russian planes were capable of carrying nuclear missiles and some have been seen recently flying close to U.S. aircraft carriers. In Ottawa, defense expert Roy Rempel told the CTV network the Russian planes are "fairly old" strategic bombers which can carry a number of cruise missiles.

"Although they are old propeller-driven aircraft, they are nevertheless part of the Russian nuclear arsenal," he said. They may have accumulated some rust in the past few years with Russian aircraft not able to fly easily, "but they still obviously have the capability to challenge North American air space, challenge NORAD defenses."

The United States and Canada are not in a state of war with Russia, Rempel said, but equally they "are not allies of the Russians, and although the Cold War has been declared, of course, to be officially over, there is still a tendency ... on the part of both sides' militaries to regard each other with a certain degree of wariness."

"As in this occasion, there may be attempts now and again to...test each other's capabilities," Rempel said.

Canada has "some forward operating locations in the Arctic for our CF-18s, enabling them to deploy there rapidly if they meet threats, or potential threats," he said.

"Of course, the Americans also have extensive capabilities in Alaska, so it's probably a joint Canadian-American effort so that the Russians know that we have a capable presence there," he said. -- Copyright 2000 by United Press International.

-- Martin Thompson (, December 01, 2000


Russia Deploys Bombers to Far East Bases

WASHINGTON, Dec 1, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Russia has deployed five strategic bombers to bases in the Far East in apparent preparation for training runs to probe U.S. air defenses around Alaska, the Pentagon said Thursday.

"We would anticipate that in the next few days they might fly one or several of these planes up through the Bering Straits and close to Alaska," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said.

The unusual disclosure of Russian military movements appeared intended to show the Pentagon was closely tracking Russian aircraft following an incident earlier this month in which Russian military leaders boasted that its warplanes buzzed the USS Kitty Hawk, taking its crew by surprise.

Bacon said two TU-95 Bear bombers were moved recently to a base at Anadyr on the Bering Sea and three others went to a base at Tiksi on the Laptev Sea in eastern Siberia.

Such flights have been relatively rare since the end of the Cold War, but Bears have flown from those bases in the Far East in March and September, 1999 to challenge U.S. air defenses.

"We regard the Cold War as being over," he said. "And although we clearly monitor ships and airplanes, as I think my presentation proves -- we've monitored the movement of these Bears -- we keep an eye on what the Russians are up to. But we are well-trained and we're ready to deal with these episodes." ((c) 2000 Agence France Presse)

-- Martin Thompson (, December 02, 2000.

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