*Editor’s Note: On March 4, 2022, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
Military expert Vladislav Shurygin – on the significance of the flight of the U.S. strategic bomber near Saint Petersburg.
This past week the American strategic bomber B-52H Stratofortress carried out maneuvers over the Baltic Sea. That took place at a distance of about 200 kilometers (approximately 124 miles) from St. Petersburg. The bomber took off from Poland and passed over the Baltic states, after which it turned around in the region of Gotland and headed toward Spain. The flight was conducted with an escort of F-16 fighter jets of the Polish Air Force. Did it pose a military threat, and is the strategic bomber of the U.S. Air Force really dangerous to Russia?
From a military standpoint, this flight means absolutely nothing. Its strategic military significance is paltry. From the standpoint of the skill of piloting over a certain region its significance is also tiny – if the piloting teams could take off from U.S. territory or, let’s say, from Guam, and cover such large distances, then it would be clear that the pilots were well-prepared.
Perhaps it was a demonstration flight designed to remind the Russians that the Americans have the B-52. But it was most likely supporting the internal European agenda; it was a propagandist statement confirming that the U.S. stands with them.
By itself, the B-52 in that region is an absolutely defenseless target. At the beginning of the 1980s it was already clear that the time of such strategic bombers as a strike force in itself had passed. They have long since transformed into long-range cruise missile carriers. That’s their main weapon. In this case, they don’t need to enter European territory. Usually the launch is made 1,500 or even 2,500 kilometers (approximately 932 to 1,553 miles, respectively) away from the target.
According to the plans of assault on the USSR – there was a plan called “Giant Lance” – the main task of these bombers was to reach the region of the North Pole and, from these frontiers, launch a large amount of cruise missiles at the USSR’s territory. They had no plans to enter European territory at all because, obviously, they would simply be destroyed there, especially considering the range of modern means of destruction of aerial targets available to Russia and its capabilities from the standpoint of anti-air defense. Hence, I suppose, there was nothing to this flight but propaganda.
Could an American bomber have posed any threat to Russia? Only in the case if it suddenly, from its closest approach to us, released its entire cruise missile payload, and they all struck our territory. But even in this case, the launch range of these missiles would be such that we could have confidently initiated an interception of these missiles – not to mention the fact that this would immediately become a pretext for war.