Norway scrambles jets as group of Russian aircraft flies from the north
Spokesperson with the Air Force, Stine Barclay Gaasland, says in a phone interview that NATO asked Norway to scramble the F-35 on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) from Evenes airport to identify the military planes flying out to international airspace over the Barents Sea from the Kola Peninsula
“Two F-35s had take-off around 9 am. They identified one Russian Mainstay outside the coast of Finnmark,” Barclay Gaasland says.
This is the first time the F-35 from Evenes are scrambled since the base took over the NATO mission from Norway’s F-16s flying out of Bodø, an air station that was closed on January 6.
Mainstay is the NATO classification of Russia’s Beriev A-50, an aircraft easy to recognize because of its giant flat radar on the roof. The plane serves as an airborne early warning and control platform and has on several occasions followed strategic bombers outside Norwegian airspace in the north.
“The group [of Russian aircraft] separated, some returned to the Kola Peninsula, while others continued south,” Stine Barclay Gaasland tells.
The Tu-142 aircraft came from Kipelovo airfield near Vologda and flew north over the Kola Peninsula to reach international airspace over the Barents Sea, Russia’s Defence Ministry informs.
“In the designated area, the crews of Tu-142 aircraft carried out a search for submarines of a mock enemy, conducted training in flying over unoriented terrain and piloting in the absence of ground-based radio technical aids for air navigation, and also worked out issues of interaction with detachments of Russian Navy ships located in the North-East Atlantic,” the Defense Ministry’s statement from Moscow reads.
Last month, the U.S. Navy fast-attack submarine “Washington” made port call to Tromsø in northern Norway to collect supplies. US, British and French nuclear-powered submarines are regularly sailing the North Atlantic outside Norway.
As the Tu-142 anti-submarine hunters and the pair of Tu-95 bombers flew south towards the North Sea, another pair of F-35s were scrambled from Ørland airbase. Later, British Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled from the Lossiemouth airbase in Scotland to meet the Russian planes.
The aircraft were in the air at the same time as a group of navy warships from the Baltic Fleet and the Northern Fleet sails the British Channel towards an announced exercise area southwest of Ireland in the North Atlantic.
Norway’s Air Force routinely identifies Russian aircraft approaching from the north. In 2021, F-16s from Bodø were scrambled 34 times and identified 58 Russian military planes outside Norwegian air space.
Last week, several of the largest warships in Russia’s Northern Fleet exercised in the Barents- and Norwegian Seas.
Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, recently sent a request to all member states in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe where he asks for written answers on whether the countries will comply with commitments not to strengthen their security at the expense of others.
British Air Traffic Control has previously said Russia’s long-range military aviation is posing a hazard to civilian air traffic as they fly with transponders turned off making it difficult for other planes to know their positions. Most commercial flights from the Middle East and northern Europe have routes in the skies above the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. So does air traffic between Iceland and Europe.
The video below is posted by Russia’s Defense Ministry and shows the pair of Tu-95 strategic bombers on the 15 hours long mission on February 2 over the Barents-, and Norwegians Seas towards Scotland. It includes the early morning take-off, aerial refueling and shows the British Eurofighter Typhoons flying along.