Willy-waving” is apparently what Russia was doing yesterday when 8 Tupolev TU-95 “Bears”, long-range bombers, said “hello” to four RAF Tornado F3s scrambled to meet them. 

Putin is increasingly flexing his scariest muscle – there have been several other encounters recently.  He has restarted long-range bomber flights in response to the failure of other countries to stick by an agreement to scrap the practice, common in the Cold War.  The Tu-95 was a Cold War icon though it was used for surveillance rather than for more aggressive missions.  Weekly forays to the Cuba Peninsula from the far north of Russia were used to demonstrate its enormous range.

The Bear is driven by turbo-prop engines, which sets it apart from other long-range bombers.  Its design was originally derived as long ago as 1945 from the B-29 when several of these USAF bombers were forced to land in Russia, and never left.  Instead the aircraft were stripped down, analysed and documented, and then a new Russian bomber built to a very similar design.

More Info:

Guardian, 7/9/2007, p21