A Norwegian military listening post intercepted cockpit conversations revealing that one of the Tu-95 flying around the coast of Norway last Wednesday had a nuclear payload onboard.
Two F-16s were scrambled from Bodø airbase and met the Russian planes outside Finnmark.
A group of six Russian aircrafts were identified by the Norwegian fighter jets; two Tu-95 strategic long-range bombers, two Il-78 tankers and two MiG-31 fighter jets. The incident took place on Wednesday, January 28th.
The Norwegian F-16s followed the Russian planes outside Norwegian airspace on the southbound route. For Norway, scrambling F-16s to meet Russian bombers has been routine since President Vladimir Putin in 2007 ordered his strategic bombers to resume flights in international airspace.
It is the British newspaper Sunday Express that reports about the nuclear payload onboard.
The newspaper writes that both Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon were alerted after cockpit conversions confirming the bomber’s nuclear payload were intercepted by a Norwegian military listening post, and shared with the British Ministry of Defence.
Integrated NATO air defence systems
When the Russian bombers approached the English Channel, Royal Air Force scrambled two of their Typhoon fighter jets. Discribing the operation, Royal Air Force writes on this on the portal:
“Thanks to our intergration with air defence systems across NATO, we were able to begin mission planning early and therefore were ready to act in good time. Once ordered to by the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre in Germany, Typhoon Quick Reaction Alert fighteres were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth to intercept and identify the aircraft. Integration with out colleagues in Royal Navy provided additional surveillance coverage and added value to the mission.”
Nuclear warhead on airdrop missile
From the Norwegian F-16s first met the group of Russian planes outside the coast of Finnmark to the planes were flying across the North Sea takes some four-five hours.
The nuclear warhead onboard the Tu-95 was allegedly not armed. The warhead was attached to a airdrop seek and find missile, according to the Ministry of Defense sources speaking to Sunday Express.
The other Tu-95 was said to have been acting in the role of “mothership”, overseeing the military exercise.
Disturbed civil air traffic
BBC reported on Friday that the two Tu-95 bombers were flying so near to British airspace that they caused disruption to civil air traffic. The Russian planes had not filed a flight plan, did not have their transponders switched on and were not talking to air traffic control.
Last fall, BarentsObserver posted a photo of a Russian Tu-22 supersonic bomber flying outside Norwegian airspace in the north. The plane had a cruise missile in launching position under and the photo was taken by a Norwegian F-16 pilot.
Press spokesman at Norway’s Joint Command Headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Ivar Moen told BarentsObserver that Russian aircrafts with cruise missiles have been registered several times lately.
“This photo is not the first time we have seen Tu-22 bombers with visible cruise missile,” Moen said.
Moen underlined that the Norwegians at that time had no reasons to believe that the Russian bombers were armed with nuclear warheads.
The Tu-95 flights last week is first time in Post-Soviet times that information has leaked out confirming that a Russian long-range bomber off the coast of Norway actually carry a nuclear payload.
BarentsObserver has not succeeded getting the nuclear warhead information confirmed, or disproved, from either the Norwegian military intelligence, not the Joint Command Headquarters.
Related stories from around the North:
Greenland: Greenland – barrels of oil and bottles of water, Blog by Mia Bennett
Iceland: Nordic information office suspends activities in Russia, Barents Observer
Russia: Rosneft won’t resume drilling in Kara Sea in 2015, Barents Observer