Russian bombers were intercepted by NATO jets following a series of “unusual air activity” over the Baltic, North Sea, Atlantic and the Black Sea. NATO planes were reportedly scrambled to “shadow” the Russian bombers flying over the Black Sea and the Atlantic, as well at Vladimir Putin’s fighter planes over the Baltic.
The Russian fighters were reportedly a concern because the increase in activity was occurring while tensions still remained high in the region due to the ongoing unrest in the Ukraine. Although the Russian bombers did not violate international law or violate the air space of Portugal or any other nations, the number and types of the aircraft did cause concern. According to breaking reports on Fox News, NATO said the warplanes were capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
During the early morning hours yesterday local time, four Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers flew over over the Norwegian Sea. The bombers are reportedly the equivalent of 1950s US B-52 fighters. Norwegian F-16s tracked the formation of Russian warplanes until the group broke away from each other. Six fighters turned back toward Russia and two Tu-85s continued south and flew over the North Sea – where they were shadowed by British Typhoons. Later, Portuguese F-16s tracked the Russian warplanes to the Atlantic Ocean.
A NATO representative said, “These sizable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European air space.” The alliance spokesman also added that while no violation of air space occurred during Russian maneuvers this time, a week ago a Russian spy plane reportedly crossed inside the border of Estonia briefly.
“We see Russian aircraft near our air space on a regular basis but what was unusual is that it was a large number of aircraft and pushed further south than we normally see,” A Norwegian military representative told the media. Two Russian fighter bombers and two Tu-95s were tracked over the Black Sea by Turkish planes later the same afternoon. On Tuesday seven Russian planes were shadowed while flying over the Baltic Sea. Both Danish and German aircraft were also involved were also involved in the NATO tracking on Tuesday. Finland and Sweden, not members of NATO, also joined in the effort.
British jets intercepted a Russian-built Antonov cargo plane carrying automobile parts to Birmingham from Latvia in yet another incident this week. Air traffic controllers reportedly became concerned about the Russian plan and diverted the aircraft to Stansted Airport – the plane was later cleared to resume its original course.
NATO representatives added that the alliance has conducted in excess of 100 Russian aircraft interceptions already this year – approximately three times as many interceptions than in 2013 before the Ukraine unrest began.
Is Vladimir Putin simply flexing his muscles or is Russia preparing for World War 3?
[Image via: Norwegian Air Force/EPA]