A pair of Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft were scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft flying over the Norwegian and North Seas on Saturday.
This was the first time Norwegian F-35s are being scrambled to intercept a Russian aircraft.
The F-35A jets were launched from Ørland Main Air Station an escorted two Russian Tu-142 “Bear F/J” aircraft and one MiG-31 “Foxhound” interceptor aircraft over the Norwegian and North Seas. The jets took over the escort role from a pair of RNoAF F-16s which were earlier scrambled from Bodø Main Air Station.
One of the Tu-142 was the Tu-142MK “Bear F” variant and the other was the Tu-142MR “Bear-J” variant. Tu-142MK is a long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft while the Tu-142MR is VLF-band radio communications relay aircraft.
The Tu-142MR is tasked with long-range communications duties with ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), a role similar to that of the U.S. Air Force’s Boeing E-6 Mercury conducting TACAMO (TAke Charge And Move Out) missions. The aircraft differed from the ASW Tu-142s in having less-sophisticated avionics, but had a long trailing wire radio aerial to relay messages to submerged submarines in times of nuclear war.
As the Russian aircraft continue southbound, the escort was taken over by UK Royal Air Force Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoon fighters were launched from RAF’s two QRA stations, RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland and RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, England.
The Russian MOD said in a statement that the Tu-142 aircraft of the Northern Fleet was conducting flight missions over the waters of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.
The flight duration over the sea was more than 13 hours. During the flight, the aircraft performed refueling from the Il-78 tanker aircraft of the Russian long-range aviation and were escorted by MiG-31 aircraft.
The MOD claimed that the flights were carried out in strict accordance with the international rules adding that the 10,000-km flight route passed over the neutral waters of the Barents, Norwegian, and North Seas, and the Atlantic Ocean.
The MOD has also released a video of the mission.
In November last year, Norway became the third European country to declare Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for its F-35 jets, after the United Kingdom and Italy.
By 2022, the RNoAF will have built up enough F-35s, pilots and maintainers in the country to let the F-35 take over the “quick reaction alert” (QRA) mission, which calls for operators to stand on a 24/7 alert and scramble, if needed, to intercept aircraft flying near Norwegian airspace. These F-35s will be ready for air-policing in Evenes, Northern Norway.
Norway plans to buy 52 F-35A Lightning II jets. They are to be based in Ørland Air Station (main location) and from 2022 also in Evenes Air Station.