Key point: America often sends its planes to spy on and deter Russian forces.
Earlier this month, three U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers, flying out of the RAF Fairford airbase in Britain, flew over the Barents Sea near the Arctic Circle. The B-52s, part of the 2nd Bomb Wing based at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, are part of a 2nd Bomb Wing rotation to Britain for exercises with European allies.
“The flight included integration and interoperability training with the Norwegian Air Force, as well as maritime training with U.S. Navy P-8s assigned to Commander Task Force (CTF) 67 operating in the region,” said a November 6th Air Force press release.
B-52s have flown over the Barents at least three times over the last several months. When the National Interest queried the Air Force about these missions in September, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe command blandly replied that “for operational security reasons, we cannot discuss specific locations of where the aircraft are flying; however, U.S. Air Force bombers fly and conduct missions throughout Europe, in international airspace or over sovereign territory after coordination with and approval from all respective nations.”
However, several Russian news and aviation sites – as well as a Norwegian news site – are reporting that the latest flight flew near sensitive Russian military bases, including those that service nuclear submarines.
“For the third time this autumn, U.S. strategic bombers were flying north of the Arctic Circle in Europe,” said the Norway-based Barents Observer. “This time, however, the planes went much deeper into international airspace near facilities of high importance for Russia’s military.”
Initially, the three B-52s flew alongside five Norwegian F-16s along the Norwegian coast and into the Barents Sea. U.S. P-8 maritime patrol aircraft were also present, as were aerial tankers that refueled the F-16s. “The planes were flying together up north along the coast of Norway before taking an eastern route into the Barents Sea from north of North Cape,” said the Barents Observer.