Russia has announced plans to send two nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers to South Africa in what observers say would be the first such deployment on the African continent.
The Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber, nicknamed the White Swan in Russia, is a supersonic Soviet-era aircraft capable of carrying up to 12 short-range nuclear missiles and of flying 12,000 kilometers non-stop without refueling.
Cited by Interfax on Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said it will fly two Tu-160s, an Ilyushin Il-62 passenger jet and an Antonov An-124 military cargo plane to South Africa. Russian news agencies reported after midnight that the An-124 and Il-62 had already landed in the country.
An Oct. 18 statement by Russia’s Defense Ministry notes that the air group’s visit aims to deepen military cooperation with South Africa’s air force and is part of “friendly relations” between the two countries that are built on strategic partnership and understanding.
South Africa is part of an economic bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China known as BRICS.
The Associated Press reported that this appears to be the first time the Tu-160 bombers land in Africa.
The Moscow Times