Australian military base on high-alert following Russian exercises

ANI | Updated: Dec 30, 2017 14:09 IST

Sydney [Australia], Dec 30 (ANI): An Australian military base in Darwin was put on high-alert after Russian strategic bombers conducted navigation exercises close to the country, flying out of an Indonesian military base, earlier this month.

The base in Darwin was briefly put on a state of "increased readiness" in early December during the exercises, as Russian strategic bombers - including two nuclear capable Tu-95s - stopped over at Indonesia's Biak Airbase for five days from December 4, the local media reported.

According to reports, the "short period" of heightened alert followed concerns that the Russian aircraft may have been collecting valuable Australian intelligence during the military exercises.

Strategic bombers "carried out air alert mission over neutral waters of south Pacific Ocean" in a flight lasting more than eight hours, the Russian Ministry of Defence said.

This is reportedly the first patrol mission the Russian strategic bombers have carried out in this area.

Not referring to the Russian activity, in specific, Australia's Defence Department, in a statement to the ABC, said that "the ADF maintains appropriate levels of readiness and posture to respond to evolving circumstances."

The executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Peter Jennings, said, "For the Russians to send a couple of aircraft this far down south I think is really proving it's got the capacity for that long-range reach."

"I'm sure there would have been concerns about Russian intelligence gathering because they wouldn't have come this far south without wanting to look at the one significant [United States] allied presence in this part of the world, which operates out of [RAAF Base] Darwin and RAAF Base Tindall a little further south," ABC quoted Jennings, as saying. (ANI)