MOSCOW (AP) – The Russian military said it scrambled a fighter jet Tuesday to intercept and escort a U.S. strategic bomber flying over the Baltic alongside the Russian border.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Russian radars spotted an aircraft flying along the border and a Su-27 fighter took off to intercept it. It said the Russian pilot identified the plane as a U.S. B-52 bomber and escorted it at a safe distance until it flew further away from the Russian border.
U.S. Lt. Col. David Faggard, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Europe, said the B-52 was conducting a routine mission in international airspace over the Baltic when it was intercepted by the Russian fighter. Such intercepts happen routinely, Faggard said.
The bomber, normally based in Barksdale, Louisiana, is currently stationed at RAF Fairford in Britain in support of NATO exercises.
The B-52 had its transponders on and would have been identifiable to air traffic controllers at the time of the encounter, Faggard said.
In a separate incident, a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet was dispatched Tuesday to intercept a Norwegian maritime surveillance aircraft flying over the Barents Sea near the Russian border, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Both Russia and NATO routinely scramble their fighters to intercept each other’s planes flying over international waters.
In September, a Russian fighter jet flew within 10 feet (3 meters) of a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft, in what American officials called an unsafe intercept over the Black Sea. In another dramatic incident last year, Russian jets buzzed over the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea, coming within 30 feet of the American warship.
Frank Jordans and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.