US Air Force B-1B bombers on Barents Sea mission met by Russian fighter jet

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - March 25, 2024
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In February, a pair of U.S. Air Force strategic B-1B bombers were deployed to Kallax airbase outside Luleå in early February. Photo: Staff Sgt. Jake Jacobsen 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
A pair of US Air Force B-1B strategic bombers supported by tanker planes flew over Norway and international airspace in the Norwegian- and Barents Seas in the direction of Russia’s Kola Peninsula on Sunday.

A MiG-31 fighter jet was scrambled from an airbase in the Murmansk region to meet the US bombers, Russia’s Defense Ministry informs in the afternoon on Sunday.

According to the ministry, the US bombers approached but turned away from Russian airspace.

Norway’s Armed Forces are partly reluctant to provide information about the flights. Asked by the Barents Observer, the Joint Headquarters near Bodø, however, confirms that the planes were inside Norwegian airspace before flying out over international airspace in the Barents Sea.

“The activity included both Norwegian and international airspace,” says spokesperson Reidar Flasnes.

“We cannot detail the activity,” Flasnes says and points to the United States as in charge of Sunday’s flights. He adds that the flights are “approved by Norway’s Ministry of Defense.”

The operation included three US KC-135R Stratotankers flying out of Mildenhall airbase north of London Sunday morning. The three tankers flew north over Norway and Sweden. Inside the Arctic Circle, the tankers provided fuel support for the US bombers and possibly also to supporting NATO fighter jets.

One of three KC-135 stratotankers that supported the US. mission flew back towards Luleå in northern Sweden after a flight out over the Norwegian Sea north of Tromsø. Screenshot from FlightRadar24.com

The US European Command has not yet commented on Sunday’s Arctic bomber mission.

Last weekend marked the end of the Norwegian-led high-profile NATO exercise Nordic Response 2024. About 20,000 soldiers, military aircraft and over 50 submarines, frigates, corvettes, aircraft carrier, and various amphibious vessels participated in the training of reinforcement to Norway by allied forces inside the Arctic Circle in case of war.

 

Finnish armored vehicles on return after the Nordic Response 2024 exercise. NATO’s forces in northernmost Europe have strengthened substantially after Finland and Sweden joined the alliance. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Located in Kirkenes, Norway, just a few kilometres from the borders to Russia and Finland, the Barents Observer is dedicated to cross-border journalism in Scandinavia, Russia and the wider Arctic.

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