Remember how the Russian's caused a minor ruckus a couple of years ago when they resumed flying long-range, Cold War-style patrols with their Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers (that were designed in the 1950s)? Well, those patrols are still going on and NATO air forces are still interecepting the flights. The cool video video (after the jump) was shot by a pair of Royal Netherlands Air Force (Dutch) F-16s that intercepted two Bears that entered Dutch airspace without identifying themselves on Aug. 17. This apparently marked the fourth time this year that Dutch fighters have been scrambled to intercept Russian bombers.
Still, its not a very big deal. The Tu-95s were shadowed by Danish F-16s before they entered Dutch airspace and where tailed by RAF Eurofighter Typhoons upon leaving.
The first versions of the Bear entered service with the Soviet air force in the 1950s and with their four turboprop engines each equipped with two, four-bladed contra-rotating propellers make it one of the loudest airplanes in the world. The current fleet of Bears is made up of the Tu-95MS that were built in the 1980s and 1990s and were designed to carry the Kh-55 air launched cruise missile -- a mission they retain to this day. The Kh-55 can carry nuclear or non-nuclear weapons and has a range of just over 1,800 miles. China allegedly received a copy of this missile in the 1990s.
Interestingly, I can't make out whether the Bear's tail guns in this video are pointed straight upwards. This was apparently a common practice during the Cold War meant to calm the nerves of NATO pilots sent to escort them. Likewise NATO pilots were usually barred from locking onto the Soviet bombers with their fire control radars lest it be considered a hostile act.
Ahhh, Russia's nostalgia for the good old days.