On Oct. 29, two F-16 jet fighters from the Royal Norwegian Air Force had a close encounter with two Russian Su-34 (NATO reporting name Fullback) fighter bombers on long-range armed patrol off Finnmark.
This was the first time the Su-34s were observed and identified while flying in international airspace off Norway.
The fighter bombers were part of a larger air group that included Tu-95 strategic bombers and Il-78 tanker aircraft, as BarentsObserver reported. A total of ten aircraft flew out from the Kola Peninsula and into international airspace on a southwest bound route from the Barents Sea over the Norwegian Sea. The two Su-34 turned north outside the coast of Norway, while the eight other planes continued south. Two bombers flew as far south as Portugal.
Photographs released by the Air Force was taken by one of the F-16s in Quick Reaction Alert at Bodø airbase depict a Su-34 Russian aircraft carrying what looks like a single external fuel tank and two Vympel R-73 air-to-air missiles, The Aviationist writes.
According to Norway’s Joint Chief of Staff spokesperson Brynjar Stordal, although the Russian air traffic in the Nordic region of Europe has been relatively stable for several years, the Russian planes are becoming newer and more advanced. “There is replacement going on of Russian equipment and capacities in all areas, both on land, at sea and in the air. This [Su-34 interception] is a clear example of that,” Stordal says to newspaper VG.
Su-34 planes took part in an air force drill in the Barents Sea in June, when Russia’s Western Military District’s Fighter Command conducted a three-day exercise above the Arctic Circle. This was the first time Su-34 jetfighters participated in this sort of drills, according to the Ministry of Defense. The aircraft conducted launches of guided air-to air missiles on targets dropped from 10.000 meters.
The Su-34 had its first flight in 1990, and the first planes were officially taken into service in the Russian Air Force in March 2014. The Russian Air Force has 51 Su-34 based in Lipetsk, Voronezh, Morozovsk and Akhtubinsk, according to Wikipedia. It is not known which base the aircraft intercepted outside Finnmark came from, but it is possible it was Voronezh, as planes from this base also participated in the June drills in the Barents Sea.