The flights began last year. The government of Russian President Vladimir, eager to send a message, began flying nuclear bombers on training missions near the United States and its allies around the world.
The message was one of intimidation and defiance: Russia is still a power to be reckoned with, and meddling in the Ukraine, Syria, and Russia itself — particularly on human rights issues — is not appreciated.
Now, after months of aggressive flying, Russia's overworked air force is falling out of the sky. On July 5, a Su-24M tactical bomber crashed during takeoff at Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East. The plane banked sharply after takeoff and hit the ground. Both pilots were killed.
Five Russian combat planes have crashed in the past month. Russia's attempt to demonstrate strength has backfired spectacularly and demonstrated weakness instead.
Russia's Air Force has been run at a high tempo, and the pace is catching up with an already-weary aircraft fleet. The toll in just the last month has been extraordinary: In addition to the fatal Su-24M accident, two MiG-29 fighters have crashed. Less than three hours after the second MiG crash, a Su-34 strike fighter flipped over while landing and went down south of Moscow.
On Monday July 6th, a Tu-95 strategic bomber suffered an engine fire and overshot the landing strip at Ukrainka Airbase in the Russian Far East, where flights against Japan and the Western United States are conducted. Both pilots were killed.