- Last week, US Air Force B-52 bombers in Europe trained alongside Norwegian F-16 fighters over the Norwegian Sea.
- Russian bombers escorted by interceptors reportedly did the same thing on the same day, though it’s unclear if they were in the same area at the same time.
- Russia has protested the deployment of US heavy bombers to Europe as tensions between Washington and Moscow remain high.
In recent weeks, US bombers have been flying regular training missions with NATO allies, practicing deterrence and preparing for the possibility of conflict.
Last week, five US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers drilled with Norwegian F-16 fighters over the Norwegian Sea.
A pair of Russian Tu-160 bombers, escorted by Mikoyan MiG-31 interceptor aircraft, did the same on the exact same day, The Barents Observer first reported, citing a Norwegian military spokesperson.
US B-52 bombers arrived in the European theatre of operations in mid-March to train with allies and partners.
With a half-dozen B-52s in Europe, the US military currently has more of these bombers operating there than it has at any time since 2003. Noticeably on edge, Russia has been highly critical of the ongoing training exercises.
While the US military insists the flights demonstrate US “commitment to allies and partners through the global employment of military forces,” the Kremlin has argued that US and NATO actions are detrimental to regional security and stability.
On March 28, five US B-52s operating out of RAF Fairford drilled alongside Norwegian F-16s in the vicinity of the Norwegian Sea.
Some of the recent training flights involving the B-52s have reportedly included mock strikes on surface targets.
On the same day, two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, accompanied by MiG-31 interceptor aircraft, conducted drills over the Norwegian Sea, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
While US bombers have been flying training in northern Europe, Russian Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers have been conducting exercises nearby by way of the Barents Sea.
A Norwegian military spokesperson told The Barents Observer that Russian bomber flybys are “neither sensational nor abnormal.” She said that Norwegian fighters were scrambled to identify the bombers when they passed by on March 28.
Russia has repeatedly scrambled fighters to intercept B-52 bombers training in Europe, and NATO countries have, in turn, sent aircraft to intercept Russian bombers.
British Royal air force aircraft intercepted the Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers over the North Sea, the British Defence Ministry said in a statement.
US Air Forces in Europe told Business Insider that interactions with Russian aircraft have been largely professional.
This is not the first time the US and Russian militaries have found themselves in close proximity in recent months. A similar situation occurred during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise late last year.
As US and NATO troops trained together in Norway in late October and early November during the alliance’s largest exercise in years, Russia decided to hold missile drills in the Norwegian Sea, not far from NATO forces.
Russia also sent a Tu-142 long-range reconnaissance aircraft to spy on the exercises in early November.
It is unclear how long the US B-52 bombers will be in Europe.
Frequent encounters between Russian and US aircraft in the region, which have sometimes been dangerously close, have been characterised as a return to Cold War behaviour, raising concerns that such interactions could led to accidents or fatalities and potentially escalate.
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