RUSSIA THREAT – Days before the U.S. made its first ever deployment of four B-1B Lancer supersonic bombers to Norway, which I described earlier, two even faster Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers flew a 12-hour mission over the Barents, Greenland, and Norwegian seas. The Blackjacks from the Russian Aerospace Forces are reportedly based at Engels Air Force Base near Saratov in southwestern Russia.
From Engels the bombers have to fly north to enter international air space without violating other nations’ borders.
A tweet in Russian by @galandecZP showed a map with the flight path and photos of the aircraft involved.
Два стратегических ракетоносца Ту-160 ( борт RF-94111, позывной 28851 и борт RF-94112, позывной 28852) выполнили плановый полет в воздушном пространстве над нейтральными водами акваторий Баренцева, Гренландского и Норвежского морей. #bearnet #RuAF pic.twitter.com/uGtoZzrVaI
— Записки охотника (@galandecZP) February 9, 2021
According to thebarentsobserver:
The strategic bombers flew out to the Barents Sea from the Kola Peninsula before the route continued further north and west outside Norway. Then, according to the Twitter user “Hunters Note”, who tracks military aviation signals, the aircraft flew west in the Greenland Sea near Jan Mayen before heading north of Svalbard, across Franz Josef Land towards Novaya Zemlya where another pair of MiG-31 from Rogachevo Air Base escorted the strategic bombers over the Kara Sea en route south.
The Russian Ministry of Defense released a video of the flight earlier in the month. According to the Defense Ministry website: “Fighter escort was provided by the crews of the naval aviation of the Northern Fleet.”
The Russians planes were tracked by NATO and intercepted by two Norwegian F-16 fighters on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) based at Bodø Air Base. Their bomber mission occurred on the same day as the major Norwegian defense exercise Arctic Hawk 21, which involved all of the country’s military branches: Navy, Army, Home Guard, Air Force and Cyber Defense.
A spokesperson from Norway’s Joint Headquarters told thebarentsobserver: “Our QRA F-16s were scrambled. They identified the Russian aircraft in international airspace up north. This is normal procedures.”
Unlike to conventionally armed US B-1Bs now in Norway, the Russian Blackjacks are nuclear-capable.
Russia sends two Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers on 12-hour flight over Barents, Greenland and Norwegian seas. https://t.co/jCyMDlho1v
— Hans Kristensen (@nukestrat) February 9, 2021
The Tu-160 was the last strategic bomber designed by the Soviet Union, entering service in 1987 and designed to compete with the U.S. B-1 bomber. The latest model is the Tu-160M which was delivered after being thoroughly upgraded, in 2014.
The Blackjack is reportedly the largest and heaviest combat aircraft, the fastest bomber in use capable of hitting well over Mach 2 (1,535 mph), and the largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing airplane, ever flown.
According to airforce-technology.com, the jet holds 44 world records. It can carry nuclear and conventional weapons including long-range nuclear missiles. The missiles are accommodated on multi-station launchers in each of the two weapons bays.
The Russians are also reportedly considering arming the Blackjacks with Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (‘Dagger’) nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles with an estimated range of 1,200 miles and a speed of up to Mach 10. This would make the jets even deadlier.