As we have reported earlier, Six RAF Typhoons intercepted and escorted two Russian Tu-142s flyings in international airspace close to the UK airspace on Mar. 7, 2020. Interestingly, the two Russian aircraft were also intercepted by the RoNAF as they flew close to the Scandinavian peninsula.
For the second week in a row, Russian maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft are flying much further south into the so-called GIUK gap (Greenland-Iceland-UK) than normal. GIUK is the area in the northern Atlantic that forms a naval chokepoint, important for the Russian navy in case of a conflict.
The planes came from the north and were first noticed by the air control station in Sørreisa, northern Norway, the Joint Head Quarters informs.
Two F-16s from Bodø air station, north of the Arctic Circle, were scrambled to identify the Russian planes. When continuing further south outside Norwegian air space, another two F-35s took off from Ørland air base in southern Norway.
“The Armed Forces yesterday established reinforced extra F-35 preparedness from Ørland air station to enhance sovereignty,” said Chief of the Norwegian Air Force, Major General Tonje Skinnarland.
Flying wing-by-wing, the event in the skies outside Norway on Saturday is historic. This is the first time Norway’s new F-35s were identifying Russian planes. Even further south, over the North Sea, two British Typhoon fighter jets took over the mission to monitor the Russian planes.
Norway’s F-16s from Bodø, the F-35s from Ørland and the British Typhoons are all part of NATO’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA).
anti-sub warfare planes from the Russian navy are normally flying the Barents Sea and northernmost parts of the Norwegian Sea. On February 26th and 27th, however, the planes flew much further south over the Norwegian Sea than normal.
The Russian Northern Fleet’s Tu-142 anti-submarine aircraft is a maritime patrol version of the Tu-95 strategic bombers. The main aim of the planes is to hunt NATO submarines and electronic intelligence.
Saturday’s flights with the Tu-142s lasted for more than 13 hours and were supported by mid-air fueling from an Il-76 tanker aircraft, according to the press service of the Northern Fleet.
The MiG-31 was only following the anti-submarine aircraft for parts of the route and not all south to the North Sea.
It is not known how many NATO submarines currently are sailing the North-Atlantic, but navy ships from several NATO members are currently in Norway, bringing in supplies to the multinational exercise Cold Response.