December 30, 2017
THE AUSTRALIAN air force was put on alert as Russian long-range bombers conducted exercises in neutral waters off Indonesia.
Australian air force on ALERT as Russian bombers circle Pacific
An air force base in Darwin, on the north coast of Australia, was put on a state of “increased readiness” as Moscow flexed its muscles in the Pacific.
The Russian exercises involved two nuclear-capable Tu-95MS bombers and over 100 personnel, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence.
Kremlin-backed news channel RT reported the exercise was the first Russian air force patrol in the southern Pacific launched from Indonesia.
Experts said the move shows Russia is looking to extend its influence in the Pacific.
Indonesia has been a key Russian arms trading partner since the mid-2000s, and the beginning of military exercises there could signal a closer relationship.
Peter Jennings, of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told ABC such exercises were an attempt to boost Moscow’s soft power.
He said: “It is a reminder Russia is here and wants to be a player in Pacific security and will use military force to demonstrate that.”
The aircraft took off from Biak airfield in Indonesia, staying in the air for more than eight hours.



The exercise was designed “to train pilots in navigating in the southern hemisphere as well as confirm the reliability of the control systems”, Russian air force Lieutenant Sergey Koblyash said.
The Australian Department of Defence confirmed “there was a brief period of increased readiness” during the Russian exercises.
A spokesman said: “The Australian Defence Force maintains appropriate levels of readiness and posture to respond to evolving circumstances.
“In early December there was a brief period of increased readiness.
“There were no instances of unasserted or unscheduled foreign aircraft operating in Australian airspace during this period.”
Mr Jennings said defence forces may have been on alert over concerns about the military exercises being used as a front for Russian intelligence gathering.
He told ABC: “There would be concerns about Russian intelligence gathering, because they wouldn’t come this far south without wanting to look at the one significant Allied presence in this part of the world, which is what operates out of Darwin and RAAF base Tindal further south.
“So if there had been intelligence gathering we would have been geared to resist.”
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