According to a statement by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) – in which both the US and Canada co-operate – two F-22 Raptor stealth fighters of the 90th Fighter Squadron scrambled quickly on Thursday from their homebase of Elmendorf AFB in Alaska to fend off two Russian Air Force MiG-31 (МиГ-31 / NATO: Foxhound) long-range interceptors, two Tu-142 or Tu-95 (Ту-142 or Ту-142 / Bear) bombers and two IL-78 (Ил-78 / Midas) tankers.
The Russian Air Force package flew right into NORAD’s air defence zone, and made it to about 40 to 55 nautical miles off the coast. Something the Americans consider utterly rude and provocative. Two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornets later intercepted two Russian Bears, when the long range bombers cruised over the Beaufort Sea.
Although these incidents by itself happen more often – 50 times over the last five years for NORAD alone – the Russian Air Force and Naval Aviation recently have increased their air defence probing flights near or in the airspace of other nations. The NORAD zone extends to 200 miles of the coast, which is officially international airspace but both Washington as well as Ottawa consider it to be no playground for military aircraft of other nations.
Russian air activity is of growing concern to countries like Finland and Sweden and it has caused NATO to increase its fighter strength on the northeastern and southeastern flanks. For example: earlier only four NATO fighters took care of showing presence in NATO-member states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from one airbase.
But during the course of several months this has now been increased to at lest 18 aircraft on three main operating bases: Šiauliai in Lithuania (currently home to 4 Portuguese Air Force F-16s and 6 RCAF CF-188s), Ämari in Estonia (currently home to 4 German Air Force EF2000s with another 2 in reserve in Germany) and Malbork in Poland (currently home to 5 Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s).
For the first time in 25 years the Russian Air Force held a large-scale joint exercise in the beginning of July between the Russian Air Defence Forces and the combat aircraft of the Western Military District in the skies of and near St. Petersburg, relatively close to borders with Finland and the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
About two dozen Sukhoi Su-34s and Su-27s plus Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 SMTs and MiG-31s took up a simulated air war against Russia’s own radar systems, self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery and S-300 surface-to-air missile units. The exercise included surprise bombing attacks from three directions on strategic targets in the St. Petersburg area. Purpose of the “city bombing” training was to help train aircrews to penetrate heavily defended areas to hit vital enemy locations on the ground.
Of course, no real bombs were dropped. All “hits” were recorded electronically to measure the success of the bombing crews and the air defence opposing them.
Parallel to exercise in the St. Petersburg area, the Russian Northern fleet put up air-to-surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises. Tupolev Tu-142 bombers and Ilyushin IL-38 patrol aircraft worked out bombing procedures, while Kamov Ka-27 helicopters dropped torpedoes. The main mission was to train the flight crews in the search and identification of enemy submarines.
Secondary air ice reconnaissance missions were flown over the Arctic Sea – especially the so-called Northern Sea Route which is a shipping short-cut from Western Europe to Asia when ice conditions allow it.
The Indian Navy received its second of originally eight ordered Boeing P-8I maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft on 14 November 2013. The first aircraft of the type was delivered in May.
The second P-8I will first make a series of flight trials in the coming months. India’s first P-8I has been executing live-fire on targets tests, including firing a AGM-84L Harpoon Block II anti-ship missile and the drop of a Mk 54 torpedo.
Compared to the USN P-8A the system architecture of the P-8I has been adapted especially for the Indian navy, with a Data Link II communications suite from Bharat Electronics to enable the aircraft to communicate with Indian military units and land bases. The IFF systems also comes from Bharat. Sub-contractors of the aircraft on the American side are CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems, BAE Systems and GE Aviation.
The Indian Navy P-8Is jet aircraft replace aging Tupolev Tu-142M turboprops used for maritime surveillance. The project is a few months behind schedule, but India already seems eager to order up to 16 P-8Is on top of the original order for eight aircraft.
Source: Boeing with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger