The MiG-31 fighter of the Northern Fleet was scrambled to identify and escort the Norwegian R-3C Orion reconnaissance aircraft over the Barents Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday.
According to the ministry, on December 12, Russian airspace control over the Barents Sea detected an air target approaching the Russian state border. To identify it and prevent the breach of the borders, the MiG-31 fighter from the air defense on the duty of the Northern Fleet was scrambled.
“The crew of the Russian fighter identified the air target as the R-3C Orion base patrol aircraft of the Royal Norwegian Air Force and escorted it over the Barents Sea. As a result of the professional actions of the fighter crew, tracking and control over the maneuvers of the foreign aircraft was ensured,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
After the Orion turned away from the state border, the Russian fighter returned to its base airfield. Its flight of the MiG-31 was carried out in accordance with international rules for the use of airspace over neutral waters without crossing air routes and dangerously approaching an aircraft of a foreign state.
Recalling an incident of 1987, a NATO surveillance plane and a USSR fighter collided in international air space over the Barents Sea.
A Norwegian Air Force P-3B Orion was on a routine surveillance flight when a Su-27 warplane approached it, about 274 km southeast of Vardoe, Norway.
Norway said that the Su-27 made two close approaches to the Orion, and the collision happened during the second encounter. In the first encounter, the Su-27 flew within seven feet of the Norwegian surveillance aircraft and then dashed away.
“It disappeared for a while but returned after about 15 minutes. This time the fighter scraped the Norwegian plane, and fragments of one of its (the Orion’s) propellers loosened and hit Orion’s fuselage,” the command said.
The pilot of the Orion, Jan Salvesen, shut down the impaired motor and landed safely at Banak air base in northern Norway. All ten Norwegian crew members were safe. At the same time, no damage was observed to the Su-27 fighter
“It was the most dramatic moment of my life,” Salvesen told reporters.