The United States and Russia have flown nuclear bombers over the Norwegian Sea, amid rising tensions following the recent withdrawal of the two Cold War-era arch foes from a landmark nuclear arms treaty and the build-up of NATO military forces on the US-led alliance’s eastern flank near Russia.
The US Air Force Europe said in a statement that five giant B-52 bombers had flown over the Norwegian Sea on Thursday and that the planes had continued towards Iceland, the BarentsObserver reported Saturday.
“During the flights, five B-52s conducted training with Norwegian F-16 fighter jets,” the statement said. “Training with NATO allies like Norway enhances the capabilities and readiness of the alliance.”
Reports said Russian strategic bombers, including Tu-160 and MiG-31 fighters, also headed for a southbound flight for the second time this week outside Norwegian airspace, flying from the Barents Sea over the Norwegian Sea and to the North Sea, north of United Kingdom.
Major Elisabeth Q. Eikeland, a NATO press spokesperson, confirmed the presence of the Russian planes, saying, “We monitor them with different types of means like sensors, radar and aircraft.”
Eikeland, however, stressed that two days of Russian planes flying outside Norway “is neither sensational nor abnormal.”
She also revealed that Norwegian F-16s fighter jets had been scrambled to identify the Russian bombers on Thursday.
US President Donald Trump suspended the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in February and threatened full withdrawal in six months. His Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, signed a decree in response, suspending Moscow’s participation in the nuclear arms treaty.
Singed in 1987, the treaty banned the US and the former Soviet Union from creating ground-launched nuclear-capable missiles with ranges from 500 to 5,500 kilometers
The Trump administration says it would stay in the deal if Russia dismantles the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, which Washington believes is in violation of the INF.
Russia has rebuffed US claims by showcasing the missile to journalists and revealing many of its sensitive specifications to ensure the international community that the Trump administration is being dishonest.
While the INF-treaty includes land-based missiles, strategic bomber planes are regulated by the New START treaty between Washington and Moscow.
The Russian and American flights with strategic bombers in the skies over and outside northern Europe were conducted at the same time as Northern Wind drills took place in northern Sweden.
About 7,000 of the 10,000 participating soldiers came from Norway, Finland, USA and Great Britain.
UK jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers
In a separate report on Saturday, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) said it had scrambled Typhoon fighter jets to intercept two Russian bombers approaching UK airspace.
The Typhoons had been sent from a base in northern Scotland at midday on Friday to monitor the two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack long-range bombers.
The RAF said it had worked closely with its NATO partners to monitor the Blackjacks as they flew over international airspace, saying they had “successfully” intercepted the Russian bombers over the North Sea and escorted them from UK airspace.
The RAF said it was the second time this week that the presence of Russian planes and their military activities had been investigated.