On Tuesday, Russia scrambled a fighter jet to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. bomber flying over the Baltic Sea, close to the Russian border. The U.S. bomber was a B-52, a long-range bomber introduced in the 1950’s. According to reports, the bomber’s appearance was upsetting to Moscow.
Reports of the incident say that at around 1000 Moscow time, the U.S. bomber was flying over neutral waters, parallel to the Russian border, when Russian air defense systems detected it. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 jet was then sent from its Baltic Fleet air defense unit in Kaliningrad to intercept it.
“The Russian SU-27 crew, having approached at a safe distance, identified the aircraft as an American B-52 strategic bomber and escorted it.” The SU-27 stayed with the B-52 until the bomber changed course and withdrew from the border.
Former Russian Air Force commander Pyotr Deinekin said he could not recall the last time a B-52 had flown over the Baltic Sea, raising “troubling questions,” according to the Interfax news agency.
“Such behavior does not deserve respect,” said Deinekin. He said Russia should determine what weaponry the B-52 was carrying, noting that the B-52 was created when nuclear war was a threat and was designed to hit vital targets. “Strategic bombers should not fly so close to our land borders,” he said.
According to Reuters, NATO nations have had to respond to Russian bombers. Reportedly, nations like Britain “regularly report scrambling jets to intercept Russian nuclear-capable bombers flying close to their air space.”
Although it’s not often that Russia uses its fighters for the same reason, Russia did report another, separate incident with a Norwegian patrol plane. Russia says one of their MiG-31 jet fighter’s intercepted the Norwegian P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft over the Barents Sea.
The Russian Defence Ministry said the Orion’s transponders were switched off as it flew in close proximity to their border. The Norwegian military confirmed the incident, calling it “normal”.
According to Sputnik news, Foreign Ministry official, Mikhail Ulyanov said, “The fact that NATO forces are converging near Russia’s borders and carrying out military exercises supported by strategic bombers from the USA capable of carrying nuclear weapons hardly helps de-escalate tensions in Europe.”
Reportedly, Moscow believes U.S. B-52’s are being sent from Louisiana to Britain for military exercises.
Two confirmed U.S. military events are currently taking place overseas. According to the Navy website, the U.S. is taking part in the 45th annual edition of Exercise BALTIC OPERATIONS (BALTOPS), a “live training event” in the Baltic Sea. The event began June 1 and will run until June 16.
The U.S. Army is engaged in the Saber Strike War games, a “Europe-led cooperative training exercise that helps facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations,” according to the Army website. The Saber Strike operation started May 28 and will end June 24.
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