WASHINGTON — A Russian fighter jet intercepted a U.S. bomber over the Baltic Sea in international waters on Tuesday, according to a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry that was published on state news agency TASS.
“On June 6 Russia’s airspace monitoring … identified an air target flying along Russia’s state border over the international waters of the Baltic Sea. A Sukhoi-27 fighter jet of the Baltic Sea Fleet’s air defense force was dispatched to intercept the target,” according to the statement, quoted by TASS.
“The crew of Russia’s Sukhoi-27 jet approached the aircraft staying at a safe distance, identified it as a U.S. strategic bomber B-52 and escorted it for some time,” the report said.
The Pentagon also confirmed that the intercept occurred.
“A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress flying a routine mission in support of multiple planned exercises in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27,” according to a statement from Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, a U.S. Army Defense Department spokeswoman.
“The crew involved is still supporting the exercise. There are a number of intercepts that take place on a regular basis. The vast majority are conducted in a safe manner,” the statement said.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Air Force deployed B-52 bombers and 800 airmen to the United Kingdom in support of joint exercises with NATO allies and partners that are taking place across Europe.
Those scheduled training drills were expected to primarily take place on Russia’s doorstep — specifically in the Baltic Sea, the Arctic and along Russia’s border with several NATO partners.
A Russian Ministry of Defense statement in a TASS report also said that a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet intercepted a Norwegian P-3C Orion aircraft on Tuesday in international waters over the Barents Sea.
“The interceptor plane’s crew approached the target at a safe distance and visually identified it as a P-3C Orion anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft of the Norwegian Air Force.
After the Norwegian plane changed its flight route and flew away from the border of the Russian Federation, the MiG-31 fighter jet returned to its home aerodrome,” according to TASS.
Norway has downplayed the significance of the incident, saying the maritime patrol plane identified by Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace.
Lt. Col. Ivar Moen, senior spokesman for Norwegian Join Headquarters said Russia did not “intercept” the Norwegian Air Force plane in the Barents Sea Tuesday.
Moen stressed that the interaction between the Norwegian and Russian aircraft was considered “normal.”
Along with the US, Norway is one of the 12 original members of NATO.