- - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Russian strategic air forces fired six new, precision-strike cruise missiles in test launches Friday amid new tensions between Moscow and the West over the crisis in Ukraine.

Russia’s Defense Ministry announced Friday that the missile firings took place during exercises involving eight Tu-95 Bear bombers—the same type of strategic bomber recently intercepted 50 miles off the California coast by U.S. jets.

Russian bombers, meanwhile, continued saber-rattling air defense zone incursions against Canada’s arctic and in Europe over the Baltic Sea.

On Monday, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu announced that Russian military forces had launched a large-scale “surprise” readiness exercise that was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.


President Obama discussed the Ukraine crisis with Putin by phone on Monday and urged the Russian leader and separatist rebels to implement a peace plan proposed by the Ukrainian government.

“The president called upon President Putin to press the separatists to recognize and abide by the ceasefire and to halt the flow of weapons and materiel across its border into Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

Russia also announced last week it will deploy Tu-160 strategic bombers to neighboring Belarus, a key Moscow ally, for a military celebration.

The new cruise missile was not further identified by the ministry statement, other than being described as a “new, high-precision” guided cruise missile.

Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said the recent testing of Russia’s newest air-launched cruise missile is part of a pattern of nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.

The nuclear missile test firings followed a large-scale nuclear forces exercise in May that Haney said was a cause for concern in light of Ukraine.

“In light of increasing tensions, Russia has also been busy exercising and demonstrating its strategic capabilities, reaping the benefits of decades of modernization,” Haney said during a defense industry breakfast June 18.

The large-scale nuclear exercise May 8 drills involved “significant nuclear forces and associated command and control in just six months since the last one back in October,” Haney told a defense industry breakfast June 18.

“Additionally, we have seen significant Russian strategic aircraft deployments in the vicinity of places like Japan, Korea and even our West Coast,” Haney said. “Russia continues to modernize its strategic capabilities across all legs of its triad, and open source [reporting] has recently cited the sea trials of its latest [missile submarine], testing of its newest air launch cruise missile and modernization of its intercontinental ballistic force to include its mobile capability in that area.”

A former Pentagon official said the new missile was likely an air-launched cruise missile designated KH-101 or KH-102. The Kh-101 is armed with a conventional warhead and the Kh-102 is a strategic nuclear delivery vehicle.

“The Obama administration Defense Department says the KH-102 is operational, and that is consistent with what the Russian press is saying,” said Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon strategic weapons analyst. “There is less Russian press on the KH-101.”

Story Continues →