Navy jets scramble after Russian bombers near US aircraft carrier

Navy jets scramble after Russian bombers near US aircraft carrier
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Two Russian bombers flew within one mile of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier near South Korea on Tuesday, prompting the Navy to launch four fighter jets in response.

The Russian TU-142 "Bear" bombers descended to an altitude of 500 feet, while the aircraft carrier was conducting joint exercises in the Asia Pacific with the South Korean navy.

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The Navy said a ship in the Reagan's strike group tried to contact the Russian bombers, but there was no response.

The Navy, though, called the Russian flyby "routine," "not unprecedented," and said scrambling four Navy jets was a "standard" response.

"It's standard operating procedure for U.S. planes to escort aircraft flying if they are in the vicinity of a U.S. ship -- then that's standard procedure," said Navy Cmdr. William Marks. 

He said Russia's flyover was "safe" -- "a range of about a mile away," he said.

"We do the same, it's not uncommon," he added. 

However, later, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Russian bombers coming this close "doesn't happen frequently." 
 
The USS Reagan was in international waters east of the Korean peninsula when the incident happened, as Stars and Stripes first reported.
 
Davis said a U.S. protest has not been lodged with Moscow. 
 
This story wsa updated at 4:28 p.m.