Norway says Russia’s mock attack on Vardø radar troubles stability in the north

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - March 13, 2018
The Globus-II radar is visible above Vardø harbor. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

A year ago, on March 24 2017, nine Russian aircraft simulated an attack on Norway’s radar station in Vardø.

The mock attack, made by bombers from airbases on the Kola Peninsula, became public last week after Director of the Norwegian Intelligence Service, Lieutenant General Morten Haga Lunde, gave details in his annual speech at Oslo Military Society. He showed the route of the aircraft flying into attack position just northeast of Norwegian air space. None of the aircrafts violated the border, but they were close enough to possibly launch weapons before they backed off and returned home.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Kristin Enstad tells the Barents Observer the case has been brought up Russian authorities.

“The Foreign Ministry can confirm that the case is brought up appropriately with Russian authorities. It was made clear that we consider such behavior does not promote good neighborly relations,” Enstad says and continues: “On the contrary, it contributes to a decline in confidence, predictability and stability in the north.”

The main objective for the Globus radars in Vardø are to map movements in the airspace over the Barents Sea and other areas of interest for Norway in the north, the Norwegian intelligence says in a short description on its web portal. The radars are also collecting information about activities in space.

NATO fleet and Bodø

Additional to simulating an attack on the Vardø radar station in March, two other mock attacks were disclosed by the head of the intelligence service. In May, a group of 12 aircrafts flew tactical flights towards a fleet of NATO vessels exercising in the Norwegian Ocean in the waters outside Tromsø. In late May, another similar mission was directed towards military installations in the Bodø area.

Norway’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets are based in Bodø. Outside of town is the Norwegian military’s Joint Headquarters.

Last year, the Barents Observer with reference to NRK, reported the loss of GPS signal for commercial aircrafts over Eastern Finnmark during Russia’s large-scale military exercise Zapad 2017. For about a week in September, SAS and Widerøe aircraft flying to airports such as Kirkenes and Vardø during those periods had to navigate with the help of radio signals due to loss of GPS. The jamming came from Russian sources across the border on the Kola Peninsula.