The Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) announced on October 6 that the Russian Air Force dispatched a MiG-31 Foxhound aircraft to intercept an American reconnaissance aircraft approaching the Russian border over the Norwegian Sea.
“To identify an air target and prevent violation of the Russian state border, a MiG-31 fighter from the Northern Fleet air defense forces on duty was scrambled,” the RuMoD said in a statement.
The Ministry notified that US Р-8А Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft was intercepted while approaching the Russian border. Once the threat was detected, the Russian MiG-31 fighter jet from the Northern Fleet forces’ air defense was lifted into the air to stop the violation.
“The crew of the Russian fighter jet MiG-31 identified the aerial target as a US Navy P-8A Poseidon base patrol aircraft. At the approach of the MiG-31, an American military aircraft performed a U-turn. Violation of the state border of the Russian Federation was prevented,” the ministry said.
In the wake of the Ukraine war, western military aircraft have been manning the airspace near Ukraine round the clock, leading to frequent engagements with Russian fighter jets.
For instance, last month, Russia scrambled a MiG-31 jet fighter to intercept a US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol plane approaching its airspace over the Barents Sea, which is located on the northern Norwegian coastline within Russian and Norwegian territorial waters.
Much like the latest incident, a similar engagement was reported in August when a Norwegian P-8 Poseidon was nearing the Russian border but turned back when it was approached by a Russian MiG-29 fighter jet.
In some instances, NATO countries have also had to scramble their aircraft to intercept approaching Russian jets. For instance, Norway sent up two F-35s off the coast of Finnmark, while Britain and Germany launched Eurofighters over the Baltic Sea in April this year after they located several Russian planes off the northern region of Finnmark.
At the time, it was reported that the group “consisted of two strategic bombers of the type Blackjack (Tu-160), followed by two tankers of the type Midas (Il-78), as well as three Foxhound fighter jets (MiG-31)”. A similar incident occurred in March when two Norwegian F-35s intercepted two Ilyushin IL-38 reconnaissance planes.
The frostbitten borderlands between Norway and Russia are on high alert as a result of the war in Ukraine and the drastically worsening of Western relations with Moscow. The NATO alliance has moved dramatically to secure its influence in the north, with Finland and Sweden joining their neighbor Norway.
The Norwegian Sea has continued to grow in importance for both sides. For the first time in 65 years, a US aircraft carrier docked in Oslo before taking part in exercises with NATO allies in the north. On its part, Russian Navy warship Admiral Gorshkov, armed with hypersonic cruise weapons, held drills in the Norwegian Sea in January.
Having said that, it has been quite a day of engagements between Russian and NATO warplanes. In another incident far from the Russian borders, a NATO country had to scramble its fighter jets to intercept an approaching Russian aircraft.
British Jets Lifted Off Carrier To Intercept Russian Aircraft
The UK Carrier Strike Group was operating off the coast of northern Norway when a Russian Il-38 maritime surveillance aircraft flew by. From the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s deck, F-35B Lightning jets were scrambled to join RoNAF (Royal Norwegian Air Force) F-35As to follow the Russian Naval Aviation aircraft, The Aviationist reported.
An image of an F-35B from the 617 Sqn of RAF Marham escorting an Il-38 four-engine turboprop was posted by the UK CSG’s official X account. Military observers were quick to assume that the Russian military patrol aircraft flew fairly close to the Royal Navy’s flagship, given that the image looked like it was probably captured from the aircraft carrier.
HMS Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth on September 8 and is currently operating in the Arctic under NATO command, the F-35s of several air forces perform QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) operations both domestically and overseas to support the alliance’s air policing objectives.
UK F-35Bs launched from the deck of @HMSQNLZ and flew alongside @Forsvaret_No Norwegian F-35As to escort a Russian Maritime Patrol Aircraft as it flew in proximity to UK Carrier Strike Group.#UKCSG23 #JEFtogether pic.twitter.com/HeJlQS6ahU
— UK Carrier Strike Group (@COMUKCSG) October 6, 2023
The aircraft carrier took part in Exercise Cobra Warrior 23-2, which saw participation by more than 50 aircraft from six allies—Canada, the United States, Italy, Norway, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The allies practiced working together to support a fictional country in conflict to regain sovereign territory.
The F-35s, as part of these drills, were specifically entrusted with the suppression of enemy air defenses or SEAD missions. For instance, two Italian Lighting aircraft recently intercepted two Russian Naval Aviation Su-30s off Kaliningrad. Italian F-35As are currently stationed in Poland to support Baltic Air Policing (BAP) missions.
However, the recent instance of the UK F-35B lifting off from the carrier may be one of the first—if not the first—times an F-35B has been dispatched from a carrier’s flight deck to conduct an intercept in the Arctic region.
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