Although the Russian planes did not violate the air space of NATO members, alarm bells were ringing because of the “unusual air activity”. Separate flights of fighter jets and bombers caused concern because of the number and type of the aircraft involved. Fox News reported that according to NATO the aircraft had the capability to carry nuclear weapons, and media outlets have been predicting the beginning of World War 3.
World War 3: Differing flight patterns
The Norwegian Air Force scrambled a group of F-16 fighters yesterday morning as a group of four Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers flew over the Norwegian Sea, escorted by four refueling tanker aircraft. The NATO jets tracked the Russians until the group broke apart. Two bombers continued south where they were tracked by British, and subsequently Portuguese, jets before heading back East.
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A spokesman for NATO claimed that the level of air activity was “unusual”. Last week a Russian spy plane briefly crossed the border into Estonia. A Norwegian military spokesman told assembled journalists: “we see Russian aircraft near our air space on a regular basis but what was unusual is that it was a large number of aircraft and pushed further south than we normally see.”
World War 3: Increasing number of incidents
Later that same day, Turkish planes shadowed two Russian fighter-bombers and two Tu-95s flying over the Black Sea. This Tuesday Danish and German planes responded to seven Russian aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea. In an interesting development, warplanes from non-NATO members Finland and Sweden were also involved.
In a slightly different incident, a Russian-built Antonov cargo plane was intercepted by British jets en route from Latvia to Birmingham. Although it was only carrying automobile parts, air traffic controllers became concerned and diverted the plane to Stansted Airport, where it was checked and later cleared to complete its planned route.
Tensions have been increased by the ongoing unrest in Ukraine. So far NATO has intercepted Russian aircraft over 100 times in 2014, which is three times as many as in 2013. Is this increasing activity a precursor to World War 3 or just a show of strength designed to intimidate Russia’s neighbors?