TechNorwegian F-35s intercept Russian jets on radar calibration mission

Norwegian F‑35s intercept Russian jets on radar calibration mission

Tu-142; illustrative photo
Tu-142; illustrative photo
Images source: © Getty Images | Valentin Yegorshin
Norbert Garbarek

30 June 2024 14:01

The Bulgarian Military Portal reports that F-35A fighter jets from the Norwegian Air Force intercepted and escorted two Russian Tu-142MK maritime reconnaissance aircraft over the Bay of Biscay.

The Russians regularly conduct training flights outside their territory. Earlier this year, the Russian Federation's army sent Tu-22M3 bombers or MiG-31 fighters over the Baltic Sea several times. Many such incidents prompt immediate responses from NATO member countries, which react by scrambling fighters to intercept and subsequently escort the Russian aircraft.

This was no different in the case of the 15-hour flight that two Russian Tu-142MK aircraft recently undertook on a route from Kipelovo to the Bay of Biscay and the North Atlantic. According to Bulgarian Military, both aircraft were to cover a distance of 10,000 kilometers, and during the flight, they were intercepted by Norwegian F-35A fighters.

What exactly were the Tupolev Tu-142MKs doing over the Bay of Biscay, off the west coast of France? European sources cited by Bulgarian Military indicate that the Russian aircraft were on a special mission, precisely calibrating a new over-the-horizon radar installed near Nizhny Novgorod, according to the report.

Russian aircraft off the coast of France

Bulgarian Military explains that the Tu-142MK maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare planes are crucial in over-the-horizon radar calibration flights. These flights are not combat missions but rather test activities.

The Tu-142MKs are equipped with sensors and electronic systems designed to detect and track targets on and below the water's surface at long distances. According to the report, the main goal of such flights is to properly tune the radars to ensure they can accurately detect targets and provide allies with reliable data.

Tu-142 - illustrative photo
Tu-142 - illustrative photo© Wikimedia Commons

During a calibration flight, the Tu-142MK performs specific maneuvers over designated areas. There is no room for randomness in these places – every move is precisely planned to cover various environmental conditions and altitudes.

The main system installed on board the Tu-142MK is the Korshun-K radar, which monitors the area around the aircraft and detects targets. Additionally, the Berkut-95 magnetic anomaly detector is a crucial element of the aircraft.

This is used to detect even minimal changes in the Earth's magnetic field, which large metal objects can cause, and thus submarines, which the Tu-142MK can detect and track. The identification and tracking of surface objects are carried out by electronic support measures that analyse all electronic signals generated by potential targets.

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