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Russian Tu-160 Strategic Bombers Arrive In South Africa For First Time Ever

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Russian Tu-160 Strategic Bombers Arrive In South Africa For First Time Ever

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On October 23rd, Russia landed two Tu-160 strategic nuclear bombers in South Africa in a training mission. This is the first time ever such an aircraft visits the African continent.

The flights were made to coincide with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opening of the Russia-Africa summit that takes place on October 23rd – 24th in Sochi, Russia.

The two Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers touched down at Waterkloof air force base in Tshwane.

Videos showing the Tu-160s approaching the Waterkloof air base appeared online.

Another video showed a Tu-160 being refueled by an IL-78 support aircraft while on the ground.

The flight route ran over the waters of the Caspian and Arabian seas and the Indian Ocean. Bombers spent more than 13 hours in the air, breaking over 11 thousand kilometers. At the last stages of the Tu-160 bombers’ route, they were escorted by South African Saab JAS 39 fighter jets.

As noted by the Russian Ministry of Defense, the air group also included aircraft of the military transport aviation Il-62 and An-124 Ruslan.

The purpose of the visit to South Africa is to further develop bilateral military cooperation and the development of interaction between the Russian Aerospace Forces and the South African Air Force.

The Tu-160 received the nickname “White Swan” from pilots. The missile carrier was developed in the 70s, and was adopted in 1987. It is the heaviest combat aircraft in the world. The bomber is capable of speeds up to 2200 kilometers per hour and can be in the air for up to 25 hours, which makes it one of the most versatile aircraft.

This is not the first foreign visit of Russian long-range aircraft. In December last year, two Tu-160, An-124 and Il-62 visited Venezuela at the invitation of the leadership of this country. They made joint flights with the Venezuelan Air Force, and then returned to the airfield back in Russia.

“Long-range aircraft flew in the airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, Norwegian and Barents Seas,” the defense ministry said. “Tu-160 strategic bombers flew over 12,000 kilometers and refueled in the air,” the ministry added.

“During their visit to Venezuela, the pilots of long-range aircraft performed a routine flight in the airspace over the Caribbean Sea, receiving practical experience of fulfilling the flight task near the equator in the conditions of high humidity and temperature regimes, as well as of performing joint flights with crews of Venezuela’s attack aircraft which accompanied Russian jets at different stages of the route,” the defense ministry added.

“On the final day of the internaitonal visit of the delegation of the Aerospace Defense Forces, a meeting was held between Russia’s Long-Range Aviation Commander Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash and Commander of Venezela’s Air Force Divisional General Pedro Alberto Juliac Lartiguez,” the ministry said adding that “participants in the meeting exchanged opinions on the flights of Russian and Venezuelan aviation crews.”

The Il-62 and An-124 aircraft were in Venezuela in March 2019, with other military specialists in Venezuela on agreed cooperation. The Tu-160s made no visit then.

The US was very vocal about the Russians having to leave Venezuela immediately after reports of the planes landing surfaced. It is likely that the landing in South Africa will be antagonized by some sort of propaganda, as well.

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