A Russian Air Force Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft, left, is escorted by a Norwegian Air Force jet in this Oct. 31, 2014, photo released by the Norwegian Air Force. Reuters
OSLO—The Norwegian Armed Forces released a video of a Russian fighter jet flying uncomfortably close to a Norwegian F-16, highlighting potential collision risks when intercepting Russian aircraft in international airspace on behalf of NATO.
The release of the video on Sunday follows a series of publications by Norwegian defense authorities regarding encounters with Russian aircraft this year, and it marks another sign of escalating concern among North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies over Moscow’s increased military activity.
NATO recently warned of potential risks to civil aviation when it reported a tripling of Russian aircraft interceptions this year compared with last year, with most of the increase in the Baltic region and elsewhere in Europe.
According to Norway’s armed forces, the video shows a Russian MiG-31 suddenly cut in front of one of two Norwegian aircraft sent up by NATO to intercept Russian aircraft in international airspace north off Norway. “What the hell,” says the Norwegian F-16 pilot in the video, as he dodges the MiG-31 passing him at a distance estimated to be closer than 20 meters (65 feet).
Norwegian Armed Forces spokesman Brynjar Stordal declined to say when the incident occurred, but said close calls such as this are rare.
“We could have had a collision between the aircraft,” he said. “The pilot has a spontaneous reaction in the video, and both his comment and the evasive maneuver indicate that this is unwanted … We don’t know if this was a mistake by the Russian pilot, or a sign of a more aggressive behavior by the Russians.”
Russian aircraft have been flying more frequently and farther south along the Norwegian coast in recent years, according to Norway’s Ministry of Defense. Norwegian F-16s were scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft 41 times last year and 43 times so far this year, compared with only 16 occasions in 2005.
“I don’t think there’s a special need for worry, but we are of course monitoring the activity,” Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Søreide said in an emailed statement.
Ms. Søreide said it was legitimate for the Russian military to exercise, also in international airspace, but that “Russia, like everyone else, must abide with international aviation laws and regulations. It is unacceptable that Russian planes create dangerous situations in European airspace….”
On Sunday, Norwegian defense authorities also released a fresh video of a previously reported Oct. 31 encounter between Norwegian F-16s and Russia’s newest jet fighter, the Su-34, off the coast of Norway. The observation marked the first time the Su-34 was spotted flying in international airspace off Norway.
Authorities said the armed forces have picked up a new trend among Russian military pilots, alleging they are flying in larger formations and acting more aggressively than before.