The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed that MiG-31 fighters were scrambled to intercept and escort a Norwegian P-3c ORION over the Barents Sea today. The statement from the Russian national Defense Control Center reads below:
“December 12, 2022- Russian means of airspace control over the waters of the Barents Sea detected an air target approaching the State Border of the Russian Federation. To identify an air target and prevent violation of the state border of the Russian Federation, a MiG-31 fighter from the air defense forces of the Northern Fleet was taken into the air. The crew of the Russian fighter identified the air target as an R-3C Orion base patrol aircraft of the Norwegian Air Force and escorted it over the Barents Sea. As a result of the professional actions of the fighter crew, tracking and control over the maneuvers of a foreign military vessel was ensured. After the foreign military aircraft turned away from the State Border of the Russian Federation, the Russian fighter returned safely to its base airfield. Violation of the State Border of the Russian Federation is not allowed. The flight of the Russian fighter was carried out in strict accordance with international rules for the use of airspace over neutral waters without crossing air routes and dangerously approaching an aircraft of a foreign state.”
While the message did not say where exactly the intercept occurred, Russian and Norwegian aircraft have historically intercepted each other over the Barents Sea. In fact, in 1987 a Soviet Su-27 FLANKER collided with a Norwegian P-3 ORION. According to the aviationgeekclub:
“Lt. (SG) Vasiliy Tsymbal flying Su-27 ’36 Red’ (c/n 36911016816) was ordered to make a practice intercept. Trying to ‘squeeze’ the Flanker out as the fighter moved in close, the Orion’s captain 1st Lt. Jan Salvesen reduced speed by extending the undercarriage and moved to position his aircraft directly above the Su-27. However, he was unaware of the Flanker’s low-speed handling capabilities, and as the Su-27 slowed down as well to keep formation the Norwegian crew briefly lost sight of it.
Tsymbal maneuvered the fighter dangerously close to the Orion and the port fin struck the No. 4 propeller. The dielectric fin cap shattered immediately, but so did the propeller and the debris punctured the fuselage skin, causing decompression; the damaged propeller caused violent vibration, forcing the crew to shut down the engine. Some accounts say that Tsymbal was not content and positioned his Su-27 ahead of the P-3, dumping fuel on its fuselage! Anyway, both aircraft made for home, landing safely at their respective bases.”
While today’s intercept was significantly smoother, this does demonstrate the room for miscalculation is high, especially considering the NATO-Russian tensions over the ongoing Ukraine war.