Russian jets were scrambled Tuesday to intercept and escort US and Norwegian surveillance aircraft and a drone in separate incidents in the Barents and Black Seas, the Ministry of Defence has announced.
"Aerial targets flying toward the state border of the Russian Federation were identified as reconnaissance aircraft: a Norwegian Air Force P-3C Orion over the Barents Sea and US Navy P-8A Poseidon, US Air Force RC-135 and US Air Force MQ-9A Reaper drone over the Black Sea," the ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
The aircraft were said to have been picked up by planes under the command of Russia's Northern Fleet and the Southern Military District, respectively. After intercepting the foreign aircraft, the Russian jets were said to have escorted them from a safe distance until they retreated away from the border. the Defence Ministry stressed that all the flights were carried out 'in strict accordance with international rules on the use of airspace.'
Tuesday's events follow an incident Saturday in which Russia scrambled Su-35 and MiG-31 fighters to intercept and chase away an RC-135 spy plane flying toward Russian airspace in the Sea of Japan. Before that, on July 1, a Su-27 took to the skies over the Black Sea to intercept another RC-135, also belonging to the US. Two similar incidents were reported days before that.
In late June, the defence ministry reported that some 35 foreign aircraft had carried out reconnaissance operations along Russia's borders in just a week, with Russian fighters forced to scramble to intercept the potential intruders on 19 occasions.
The Russian military has detected, tracked or intercepted thousands of US and NATO aerial patrols along Russia's borders in recent years, with the flights taking place in a variety of locations, from the Barents and Baltic Seas in the north and northwest to the Black Sea in the south and the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk in the Far East. The Western alliance stepped up its reconnaissance and strike drilling operations off Russia in the wake of the 2014 Ukraine crisis, with aerial missions complemented by an uptick in ground and naval deployments and maneuvers. Moscow has repeatedly warned that such flights pose the inherent risk of accidental escalation, while the US and its allies have occasionally accused Russian pilots of intercepting their planes in an "unsafe and unprofessional" manner. The Defence Ministry has dismissed the latter claims.