More Russian military aircraft outside Norway

The number of identifications of Russian military aircraft in 2012 was the highest since 2007. (Photo: Forsvaret)

Jet fighters from the Norwegian Air Force identified a lot more Russian military airplanes outside Norway in 2012 than in the previous years.


Norwegian fighter jets were scrambled 41 times and identified a total of 71 Russian airplanes in 2012. 

In 2011 there were 34 scramblings and 48 identifications, in 2010 36 scramblings and 37 identifications.

“In 2010 and 2011 the number of identified planes was somewhat lower, but the number of scramblings was approximately the same. The total number for 2012 is about the same level as in the period 2007-2009”, says press officer Lieutenant Colonel John Espen Lien at the Joint Command Headquaters to Avisa Nordland. “There is no direct connection between the number of scrambling and the number of identified planes”, Lien adds.

The increased number of identified planes is in line with Russian political statements about more military activity in the north, Lien says, but underlines that this has not yet been analyzed in detail in relation to the total Russian military activity so it is too early to draw any final conclusions. 

Russian air activity in the north-west has varied over the years. In the mid-1980s there could be as much as 500-600 identifications annually. The number dropped drastically when the Soviet Union fell – in 1999-2000 there were only 3-5 identifications.

In 2007 President Vladimir Putin ordered increased international presence and the number of identifications rose to 88. The number was high also the next year, but dropped again in 2009.

John Espen Lien underlines that the Norwegian Air Force does not scramble jet fighters to identify every single Russian airplane that is detected. “For us the number of identified airplanes is not the most important. Our goal is to understand the activity”.