NATO scrambled F-35 fighters to intercept Russian aircraft on Thursday after the Norwegian Air Force identified two jets flying near the Finnish border.
Tensions between Russia and the Nordics have escalated since Finland and Sweden submitted their applications to join NATO on May 18, expanding the border between Russia and the military alliance.
Norway identified the Russian aircraft as one Mikoyan MiG-31 ‘Foxhound’ and a Sukhoi Su-24 ‘Fencer’ jet.
The Russian planes flew to the Norwegian Sea before returning east, said the air force.
The Sørreisa Control and Reporting Centre, in the north of Norway, reported on the jets.
The Norwegian F-35 fighter aircraft (left) is pictured next to the Russian Su-24 ‘Fencer’ fighter (right). The Russian planes flew to the Norwegian Sea before returning east, said the air force
Norway identified Russia’s aircraft as the Mikoyan MiG-31 ‘Foxhound’ (top) pictured next to NATO’s F-35 (bottom). The Sørreisa Control and Reporting Centre, in the north of Norway, reported on the jets
Stine Barclay Gaasland, communications manager in the Air Force, said the Norwegian Armed Forces has two F35 fighter jets that are always on standby, in what they call the Quick Reaction Alert for NATO.
‘In 15 minutes they must be in the air and be ready at all times. It is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,’ Gaasland told Norway’s TV 2 Nyhetene.
A total of 58 similar identifications were made based on 34 scramblers, or missions, in 2021, while the year before there were a few more, according to the Armed Forces.
The Russian jets were observed outside Finnmark, in the far north of the county, but were never in official Russian airspace.
Trespassing into Norwegian airspace would have provoked ‘a more aggressive action’, said Gaasland.
Asked if the activity was a threat to Norway, she replied: ‘I do not want to say that, because we are used to it happening, and there is nothing illegal in it. We pay close attention to all activity in our local areas.’
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (R) and Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) announced the nation’s intention to apply for NATO membership
Sweden and Finland are attending the NATO summit in Madrid on June 28-30 to cement their bid to join the military alliance, according to announcement made during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos.
Finland and Sweden submitted their applications together and said they had been spurred into joining NATO by Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, bringing about the biggest shakeup in European security in decades.
Putin has repeatedly pointed to the post-Soviet enlargement of NATO toward Russia’s borders as a key driver behind his war in Ukraine.
Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin has been visiting Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, photographed in the towns of Irpin and Bucha where Ukraine suspects Russian troops carried out atrocities.
She said on Thursday Russia’s actions in Ukraine were a turning point for the world and relations with Moscow could not go back to how they were before its invasion.