Third interception of warplanes in a week
The Tu-160 aircraft came from Engels airbase near Saratov and flew north over the Kola Peninsula and out to international airspace over the Barents Sea. West of North Cape, the aircraft continued south along the coast of Norway.
Two F-16s on NATO alert were scrambled from Bodø air base and followed the Russian planes. Another pair of NATO jets, two British air force Typhoons, were scrambled to meet the Tu-160s as they approached the North Sea northwest of Scotland.
Over the Bay of Biscay, the planes turned around and continued north to Russia again on what the Defense Ministry in Moscow says was a flight that lasted for 15 hours. The planes got mid-air tanking north of Finnmark over the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea.
A third Tu-160 were also on the wings, but stayed circling over the Norwegian Sea west of Bodø air base, according to a military plane spotter who posted the flight routes on twitter.
Сегодня картина полётов немного поменялась, и Ту-142 заменили на Ту-160. Маршрут остался прежним - мимо Англии и Ирландии в акваторию Кельтского моря. Участвовали пара Ту-160 RF-94100 и RF-94102 (позывные 67633 и 67634) + Ту-160 (позывной 67635) ретранслятор с авиабазы Энгельс. pic.twitter.com/FwG6PlLCWK— Записки охотника (@galandecZP) March 12, 2020
Spokesperson with the Joint Head Quarters in Norway, Master Sergeant Elisabeth Eikeland, describes the flight pattern as “normal for this kind of aircraft.” She adds that the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) F-16s were scrambled “and followed [the Russian planes] as we always do.”
This is the third time in less than a week that Norwegian F-16s are scrambled from Bodø air base to meet Russian warplanes. On March 7th and 11th, a pair of Tu-141 anti-sub aircraft made similar flight routes as the strategic bombers did on March 12th.
On Wednesday, Norway decided to cancel the Cold Response winter exercise due to the current outbreak of coronavirus.