Live Loads on Russian Bombers, Upping Defense Money

Moscow plans to equip its strategic bombers with full weapons loads during a large-scale exercise dubbed Stability-2008 that begins today and continues through Oct. 12 across Russia and Belarus, according to a report from the RIA Novosti news agency. This marks the first time the bombers have carried full loads and conducted live cruise missile fires in more than two decades, the report attributes to a Russian Air Force spokesman. The exercise is to include Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95 Bear H bombers—firing live weapons—and Tu-22 Backfire bombers, as well as fighters, interceptors, and aerial tankers. RIA Novosti quotes former Russian Air Force commander, General of the Army Pyotr Deynekin, as saying that the expense had previously prevented Moscow from firing live missiles aboard Tu-160 bombers and had last done same aboard Tu-95s in 1984. And, speaking of money, another RIA report quotes Vladimir Putin, now Russian Prime Minister, as saying this week that Moscow would “allocate an additional 80 billion rubles to buy new weaponry and military equipment and to ensure deployment of troops where we deem it necessary.” Part of the increase would cover the expense of the Georgia incursion and “new capabilities,” said Putin. The previously announced defense budget called for a nearly 26 percent increase in 2009, per the news service.