Putin boasts Russia has ‘surpassed’ US in weapons systems
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In images released by the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence, technicians can be seen assembling dropping devices on Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft. The planes are normally used to transport goods and weapons or to fly parachute troops into the target area.
On its website, Russia’s defence ministry explained: “In the regiment of military transport aviation in the Pskov region, crews gathered to carry out practical bombings and live shots.”
“Theoretical and practical exercises with the crews on mounting the P-50T training bombs” were being completed.
But official information added that practicing bomb drops using the devices would be carried out in the next few days.
German newspaper Bild described the shots as “disturbing images”.
One former Estonian president also reacted to the images with concern.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves wrote on Twitter: “Right next to Estonia and Latvia.”
One military specialist said that the Russian air force may use the devices “if they are planning a surprise attack or a ‘surprise parachute landing’ against an enemy who does not know what’s in store for [them]”.
Petri Mäkelä told the Bild newspaper: “They’ve been doing this for a while, and I’ve never been able to say exactly why they think it might be useful to have four 50-pound free-fall bombs under their wings.”
The “official Russian line” was that the planes could “secure landing zones and airfields in contested areas”, Mr Mäkelä said.
But that “doesn’t make a lot of sense, since a single fighter jet can drop much more ammunition with much higher precision”.
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It is not the first time Russia has shown military aggression towards its European neighbours.
In September, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that warned Russia’s aggressive actions have been noted against its neighbours in eastern Europe.
He said the West was witnessing a Russia which is trying to re-establish a new “sphere of influence”.
Mr Stoltenberg added: “We have seen that in Georgia, in Moldova, in Ukraine, and that requires a response from NATO.
“And that’s exactly why we now are implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.”
Mr Stoltenberg said: “We don’t want a new Cold War. We don’t want a new arms race.
“But, at the same time we have to make sure that we are adapting as the world is changing.
“So we are responding to what Russia is doing.”
He noted that NATO allies – which represent the largest combined military organisation in the world – were increasing defence spending and modernising armed forces, to be able to respond to modern threats in a “proportionate way.”
As well as political influence, European nations have had to deal with regular alerts of Russian fighter jets flying close to their airspace.
On August 6 this year, Royal Air Force Typhoons were scrambled to intercept and monitor Russian aircraft approaching UK airspace.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg
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