A DANGER TO THEMSELVES. As has been reported in several places, Russia is resuming trans-oceanic bomber flights after a break of longer than a decade. Via Danger Zone, Richard Weitz at World Politics Review writes:
Russia's aging equipment and Russian air crews with less comprehensive training than their American or Soviet-era counterparts make the bombers more vulnerable to mechanical problems. During the Cold War, Soviet and U.S. bombers transporting nuclear weapons sometimes crashed, leading to costly environmental restoration programs and other hazards. At present, it is unclear whether they are carrying nuclear warheads on their patrols, though Putin's use of the term "combat duty" suggests such a possibility.
The Tu-95 is a very old design, although the forty in the Russian arsenal appear to have been built in the 1980s. The USAF also, of course, operates very old aircraft, but our B-52s have been extensively reconstructed and are considerably more reliable than the B-1s or B-2s in the U.S. arsenal. I worry that the same may not be true of the Russian aircraft.
In a related story, Defense News is reporting that the Admiral Kuzentsov, the only aircraft carrier in the Russian Navy, has returned to service after an unexplained two year absence. Of course, Russian Navy exercises became very dangerous affairs in the early part of this decade, as the submarine Kursk exploded and sank with all hands, and a Russian admiral declared that his nuclear powered battlecruiser flagship "could explode at any moment". Giving that aging Russian ships have proven so unreliable, it's entirely reasonable to be concerned about long distance flights by aging Russian aircraft that may carry nuclear weapons. This effort to reassert national greatness may be pushing the Russian military beyond its capabilities, with dangerous results.
-- Robert Farley