The planes flew out from the Kola Peninsula and continued westbound in international airspace between Svalbard and mainland Norway. Map: Barents Observer / Google Earth. Aircraft photos: Norwegian Air Force

Seven Russian military planes in formation north of Finnmark

A pair of Tu-160 strategic bombers flew together with two Il-78 tankers and three MiG-31 combat jets. NATO scrambled two F-35 that met the Russian planes north of Finnmark.
April 26, 2023


NATO’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) was alarmed Tuesday as radars up north detected Russian planes approaching Norway’s airspace of interest over the Barents Sea. A few minutes later, a pair of F-35 fighter jets were on their wings out of Evenes airport to check out, the Norwegian Air Force informs via Facebook.

iFinnmark was first to report about the event.

The Norwegian pilots could soon identify, and photograph, two Tu-160 strategic bombers followed by two tank planes to support mid-air refueling and three fighter jets protecting the bombers.

According to the Defense Ministry in Moscow, the flight lasted for 14 hours and the planes continued west to airspace over the Norwegian Sea. The tankers provided refuelling two times.

Russian strategic bombers have all since 2007 regularly made flights outside Norwegian airspace, either only up north, but also en route further south to the North Sea region. After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, though, such flights out of the Kola Peninsula are less frequent than before February 2022.

It is unclear whether the Tu-160s observed on Tuesday came from Olenogorsk-2 air base on the Kola Peninsula or if the plane flew north from Engels air base near Saratov. As previously reported by the Barents Observer, Russia moved a few Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers to the Kola Peninsula after Ukrainian drones hit the Engels air base last autumn.

The MiG-31 belongs to the air defense forces of the Northern Fleet.



Refueling of the Tu-160 strategic bomber. Photo: Russian Defense Ministry


The Tu-160 is a supersonic strategic bomber that in a given situation can carry nuclear weapons. Photo: Norwegian Air Force


The second Tu-160 strategic bomber with tail No. 08. Photo: Norwegian Air Force


Il-78 tanker carries fuel for mid-air fueling of the MiG-31 and the Tu-160. This one with tail No. 51. Photo: Norwegian Air Force
The second Il-78 tanker flew north of Finnmark on Tuesday. Tail No.83. Photo: Norwegian Air Force


Three MiG-31 fighter jets followed the strategic bombers as protection. Photo: Norwegian Air Force




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