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Bears prowl the Atlantic skies

Published time: October 18, 2007 05:01
Edited time: October 18, 2007 05:01

Tu-95 ‘Bear’ strategic bombers have resumed long-range patrols after a lay-off of more than a decade. Take a look at Russian pilots flying a plane that is among the noisiest aircraft in the world and has no toilet.

Planes have always been Anton Shakharov’s passion: “For me it's in the blood. My grandfather used to fly a bomber during the Second World War, my dad and brother are pilots as well. It's a hard job, but somebody has to do it,” he says.

At 27, he is the youngest pilot to command a Russian strategic bomber.

Russia's decided to resume the long-range patrols after 15 years of time-out. For Anton’s crew it’s the longest flight they have – 16 hours in the skies non-stop.

'Bear' bomber's cockpit is far from comfortable
'Bear' bomber's cockpit is far from comfortable

The Tu-95 model is over half-a-century old, but is still seen as the backbone of Russia's long-range air fleet. But with no toilet on board, it can hardly be called comfortable.

The crew of the aircraft is seven people. But the cockpit is really small, like a small minivan’s. And the pilots have to spend from 10 to 20 hours almost in the same position.

Another inconvenience they have to cope with is the noise. The Tu 95 is considered to be the noisiest tuboprop in the air.

This flight’s mission is to practice launch a cruise missile. It looks like the real thing but has no warhead. Instead it's full of sensors to analyze the actions of the crew. This is intended to help  pilots like Anton  gain experience.

NATO fighter shadowing the mission
NATO fighter shadowing the mission

Another new type of experience for the crew is flying wing to wing with NATO fighter jets scrambled to shadow them during their missions.

And on their way back there's one more task left: mid-air refuelling. It can be compared with trying to get the petrol pump into your car while moving at a speed of 700 km/h.

After the exhausting flight the pilots can finally take a rest. But soon their passion for the skies will have them inside the big iron birds again.