Busy military aviation week in the Arctic
On September 15th, an American B-52 long-range strategic bomber was flying close to Russian air space in the European Arctic. The huge bomber came north outside the coast of Northern Norway, turned east in the Barents Sea and flew north along the west coast of Novaya Zemlya before turning west again north of Franz Josef Land. The plane then flew south along the west coast of Spitsbergen and continued south across the Norwegian Ocean between Iceland and Norway, a route map made by Mil Radar shows.
The B-52 took off and came back to the British air force base in Fairford. The map-plots are based on the aircraft’s radio signals, since military planes normally fly with their transponders turned off.
B-52 flying so close to Russian airspace in the European Arctic is very rare.
15 SEP: USAF B52 61-0015 CHAOS43 full Oceanic route passing through Bodø Oceanic, Murmansk Oceanic and Iceland Radio HF ATC sectors pic.twitter.com/mkjAdMzsok— Mil Radar (@MIL_Radar) September 15, 2018
Then, on September 20th, five Russian strategic bombers, two Tu-160 and three Tu-95, took of from the air bases in Ryzan and Engels towards the Barents Sea.
The two Tu-160 from Engels airbase continued from the Barents Sea and over international airspace of the Norwegian and North Seas, the Russian Defense Ministry reports. Several MiG-31 jet fighters from Monchegorsk Air Base followed the strategic bombers out from the Kola Peninsula.
The two Tu-160 flew south along the coast of Norway into the North Sea where they were met by fighter jets from the British Air Force. The planes never violated the airspace of Norway or Great Britain.
During the mission, which lasted for 14 hours, the strategic bombers refueled in air.
Also on Thursday, September 20th, two Tu-22M3 bombers from Olenya Air Base south of Murmansk were flying Barents- and Norwegian Seas mission. The planes were met over the Norwegian Ocean by two American F-15 scrambled from Keflavik Air Base on Iceland to monitor the flights of the two Russian bombers.
A British surveillance Reytheon Sentinel aircraft was flying north on a Barents Sea mission, Mil Radar plots show. A day after, an America WC-135 surveillance plane, often referred to as the “nuclear sniffer” took of from the Mildenhall Air Base in England for a Barents Sea mission.
WC-135 can detect and identify radioactive isotopes from nuclear weapons testing as well as releases from reactors or other sources. As previously reported by the Barents Observer, the same “nuclear sniffers” have been on Barents Sea missions on several occasion, believed to be linked with Russia’s testing of the new nuclear-powered cruise missile taking place at Novaya Zemlya.