The Russian Air Force said Thursday a group of four strategic missile aircraft achieved their objectives in a major Navy and Air Force exercise off Russia's Arctic coast.
"Four Tu-22M3 strategic missile aircraft made over 20 sorties, firing air-to-surface missiles and successfully hitting their targets in the Barents Sea," Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky, an Air Force spokesman, was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
He said the exercise involved only young pilots who had not earlier trained with live missiles.
The spokesman said NATO air surveillance activities increased in the area. "Right now, we see two to three Orions, or Atlantics, or RS-135s every day where we have normally detected only one such (surveillance) plane," Drobyshevsky said.
According to the Defense Ministry, the Tu-22M3 (NATO code name Backfire-C) is a strategic aircraft carrying one to three Kh-22M ( NATO code name Kitchen) air-to-surface missiles with a range of up to 500 km.