Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35s scrambled from Evenes airbase in Northern Norway to identify Russian aircraft operating in the High North, February 2. The Norwegian Control and Reporting Center at Sørreisa ordered the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) scramble after multiple Russian aircraft were detected flying out of the Kola Peninsula. The F-35s launched over the Finnmark coast, where they identified and shadowed a Russian A-50 Mainstay aircraft before returning to Evenes. The Russian group of aircraft divided up, some returning to Russian airspace while others continued south into the North Atlantic.
Royal Air Force Typhoons were later scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth in response to the incident and intercepted and shadowed two Russian Tu-95 Bear H, which are long-range bombers, and two maritime patrol Tu-142 Bear F. The Typhoons were supported by a RAF Voyager tanker based out of RAF Brize Norton. This is the first scramble for the Norwegian F-35s since they took over QRA duties from the F-16s earlier this year.
“Today’s Identifications, demonstrate that the F-35 works in its new role as the QRA out of Evenes. This 24/7/365 days Air Policing mission is very important for NATO and the Norwegian Air Force are well prepared and ready to support,” said Major General Rolf Folland, Air Chief Royal Norwegian Air Force.
The Russian aircraft were not transmitting a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, did not file a flight plan and did not communicate with air traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to other air users. The Russian aircraft did not enter Allied airspace and all interactions were safe and professional. The NATO Air Policing system which includes the QRA aircraft and surveillance systems stands ready 24/7 to react to this kind of incident and maintain the security of Allies’ airspace. NATO Air Policing is a vital part of collective defence, which serves as the backbone of the Alliance.