Cold game: US strategic aviation intensifies in the Arctic
This post was published in Izvestia. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
MOSCOW, (BM) – All week, the unusual activity of US strategic aviation in the Arctic was observed. On Thursday, B-2 stealth bombers flew into the Arctic, and a pair of B-52H visited the Sea of Okhotsk. Groups of Russian long-range missile carriers also patrolled in the North Pacific.
Sources of Izvestia reported that these flights were not a demonstrative retaliatory step on our part. Experts believe that the North is becoming an increasingly important region and the videoconferencing has something to counter the activation of NATO.
Last week was a record for the activity of strategic missile carrier missions of the United States at the northern and Pacific borders of Russia. Such a frequency of their visits to these regions has not been observed since the Cold War. On June 18, a pair of United States Air Force B-2A bombers maneuvered jointly with Norwegian aircraft in the Arctic. At the same time, strategic B-52H flew to the Sea of Okhotsk to Kamchatka and Sakhalin. Shortly before that, the high-speed long-range B-1Bs were already “marked” there.
The four Russian Tu-95MS also visited the Arctic this and last week. But sources of Izvestia in the military department explained that these flights were not demonstrative in nature and were carried out as planned, as part of the crew training program.
In a press release on B-2A operations in the Arctic, U.S. command noted that stealth bombers’ capabilities allow them to overcome the enemy’s most advanced air defense systems and threaten the most valuable well-defended targets.
US strategic aviation systematically flies to the Russian northern borders. The intensity of such visits may increase during the exercises, said the former commander of the 4th Army of the Air Force and Air Defense, Hero of Russia, Lieutenant General Valery Gorbenko.
“During them, American aviation not only checks our air defense or works out elements of possible operations, but also carries out reconnaissance,” he told Izvestia. “But borders never cross.” The Russian air defense system is ready to repulse the attack, and the United States knows this. The duty links of fighter-interceptors, if necessary, immediately rise to the sky, and anti-aircraft systems take such aircraft for escort.
The Ministry of Defense reported that the approach of the bombers to the Russian borders was timely detected, and they did not violate the borders. In turn, the agency spoke about the flights of Russian long-range missile carriers in the northern latitudes.
Exchange of visits
American B-2A bombers launched June 18 from an air base in Missouri. After refueling from air tankers taking off from England, they met with Norwegian F-35 fighters and patrolled the Arctic. Then, with one more refueling, they returned to the base.
To make a visit to the Sea of Okhotsk, the strategic B-52H had to go through the chain of the Russian Kuril Islands through a narrow neutral air corridor between them. Combat aircraft did not approach close to the borders of our country, but described a circle over the water area from Kamchatka to Sakhalin. According to the Ministry of Defense, there they were met and escorted by duty fighters Su-30, Su-35 and MiG-31.
Russian strategic aviation is strong enough to contain any aggression and give an adequate response, said Hero of Russia, Lieutenant General Valery Gorbenko. Now the supersonic Tu-160 bomber is undergoing a deep modernization – it is installing new equipment that will seriously expand its capabilities. Do not discount Tu-22M3 and Tu-95MS – these aircraft are capable of solving the most complex tasks. In addition, there is a massive re-equipment of Russian air units with new equipment. It is important that this process proceeds as planned and at a good pace – this suggests that the capabilities of our aviation will only increase.
On June 17, the four Russian Tu-95MS conducted a long patrol of the Chukchi, Bering, Okhotsk Seas and the North Pacific. At some sections of the route, they were escorted by Su-35 and MiG-31 fighters. When flying off the coast of Alaska, planes were met and escorted by American F-22 fighters. The week before, the four “strategists” of the VKS also performed a flight along a similar route.
Rivalry in the Arctic
The North is the most important strategic direction, military expert Vladislav Shurygin believes.
“The United States has been practicing air strikes through the North Pole for over 70 years,” the expert noted. – The shortest distance from the USA to the strategic, political and economic regions of Central Russia, the Urals and Siberia runs through it. Given the density of the USSR air defense and the Warsaw Pact camp, American bombers could not break through from Europe to the same Urals. When the USSR reliably blocked the Arctic direction with air defense systems, the United States switched to cruise missiles. Until now, the main task of all types of US strategic bombers is to launch them before entering the Russian air defense zone. This element is being worked out now.
The fact that the US Air Force bombers began to appear more often in this direction suggests that they are increasing their level of combat training. But Russian strategic aviation has something to adequately answer. During flights in the northern latitudes, our pilots practice such actions, the specialist noted.
In early June, US President Donald Trump signed the Memorandum on the Protection of US National Interests in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions. One of the measures in it is the creation by the end of this decade of a fleet of its own nuclear icebreakers. Now the United States does not have a single ship of this class.
In addition to aviation flights, the exercises of the US Navy ships in the northern regions became more frequent. Since 2018, after almost 30 years of a break, American aircraft carriers began to visit the Arctic. In May of this year, the US-British naval strike group of destroyers, frigates and a submarine with cruise missiles carried out major maneuvers in the Barents Sea.
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