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 choke point, important for the Russian navy in case of a conflict.
The planes on Saturday 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-35A 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-35A 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.
Saturday’s flights with the Tu-142s lasted for more than 13 hours and were supported by mid-air fueling from a 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.
The exercise takes place in northern Norway and will last until March 18th.
The Norwegian Air Force has so far received 15 new planes, of which four are currently based at Keflavik, conducting NATO’s Air Policing mission in Iceland.
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