In early February, the U.S. Air Force announced that B-1B bombers would be sent to Norway to protect America’s interests in the Arctic Circle and surrounding waters. The move was a clear message from Joe Biden to Russia; he had never before sent U.S. bombers to Norway.
The B-1s have not yet set sail – they are currently based at Dyness Air Base in Texas, but the equipment and pilots needed to operate them have already been transported to Orland, Norway, where the country’s F-35s are also stationed.
Forbes writes that although the bombers have not yet arrived at their new station, Russia has already responded and is planning further steps.
On February 9, two Tu-160 heavy bombers were flown around Scandinavia and the Arctic Circle during a 12-hour operation. The two planes covered nearly 10,000 kilometers; they took off from Engels-2 air base in Russia, then headed for the Arctic Ocean, flew off the Norwegian coast, and finally returned to Engels.
It’s probably no coincidence that this type of aircraft was chosen: the Tu-160 looks like a B-1, but its capabilities are different in many ways. The B-1s, for example, are (no longer) able to deploy nuclear devices, but the modernized version of the Russian Tu-160s is.
The bombers were also temporarily accompanied by a MiG-31 interceptor-fighter boarded from two Rogachevo (an air base in Novaya Zemlya) as they flew over the Kara Sea.
The paper also points out that Russia regularly exercises with about 50 Tu-95, Tu-22M and Tu-160 bombers in the northern region, but due to the increased NATO military presence, more exercises could take place, with even more aircraft. Two such exercises have already been launched.
Last Wednesday, the Kremlin announced it was embarking on a new series of exercises in which the Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers stationed at Engels-2 air base would play a key role. It will be the job of the pilots and service personnel to blow up their planes and take off as quickly as possible if they blow an alarm at the base and then head to a designated destination.
In addition, the Russian leadership has announced that pilots of Su-27 interceptor fighters stationed in Kaliningrad will practice the fight against the bombers, without naming either NATO or the newly deployed B-1 in the region. eseket.
The crew of the Su-27s will simulate the interception of planes that violate the borders of the Kaliningrad region and will defend themselves with missiles against an imaginary enemy attacking the region with cruise missiles and strategic bombers.
Said Roman Martov, a spokesman for the Russian army.
Similar exercises took place regularly during the Cold War, in many cases even filling bombers involved in operations with bombs and missiles equipped with nuclear warheads. At the moment, this is not the case yet, but the relationship between NATO and Russia has deteriorated a lot in recent years: the chances of confrontation have been steadily increasing since the 2014 Crimean crisis.
There is still no realistic chance of war between the two superpowers, there is more of a political sword. Joe Biden is trying to satisfy Democratic voices demanding tougher action against Russia, while Vladimir Putin wants to tell his own voting base and Russia’s potential regional allies that “Russia is not afraid of NATO.”
Cover image: Russian President Vladimir Putin poses with the workers of the Tupolev outlet in Kazan, which manufactures Tu-160M strategic bombers, in 2018. Photo by Mikhail Metzel TASS via Getty Images
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