4 Sep, 2020
The Russian military launched eight fighter jets on Friday to intercept a fleet of American bombers approaching Crimea. The US mission included a provocative flight over Ukraine, with the focus squarely on flexing military muscle.
Russian air control detected three nuclear-capable US Air Force B-52H strategic bombers approaching the country’s border on Friday, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense, in Moscow. Four Su-27 and four Su-30 fighters were quickly scrambled, and escorted the American aircraft away from Russian airspace.
“Violations of the state border of the Russian Federation by American aircraft were prevented,” the statement concluded.
As the three bombers cruised overhead, a plethora of American and British intelligence-gathering aircraft and ships lurked over Ukrainian airspace and in the Black Sea, suggesting that the B-52s may have been testing Russia’s radar and air defenses over Crimea, which was reabsorbed by Russia following a referendum in March 2014.
This is the most intensive SIGINT bait I've seen in a while.
At least two USAF RC-135V/W Rivet Joint SIGINT planes recording the Russian emissions (radar, comms etc.) from #Crimea and #Russia as a flight of B-52H bombers circle along the Azov coast in Ukrainian airspace. https://t.co/UGv8EukU3C
— Petri Mäkelä (@pmakela1) September 4, 2020
Such tactics were commonplace during the Cold War, but are rarer in modern times.
As well as sniffing out radar and missile sites, the flight may well have been intended as a show of force, meant to demonstrate US dominance over Ukraine, a likelihood backed up by the use of the nuclear-capable bombers.
The US European Command acknowledged the mission later on Friday, adding that the three bombers were joined by Ukrainian fighter jets. According to a press release, the mission gave the Ukrainians “valuable midair training,” and demonstrated the US and NATO’s ability to “deter Russia and assure allies and partners.”
Friday’s encounter was not an isolated incident. Russian jets took to the skies less than two weeks ago to intercept another flight of B-52s over the neutral waters of the Black Sea.
Both the US and Russia have been holding rival training exercises near the Russian border as of late. Most recently the US Army began artillery drills 70km from the border in Estonia this week, days after Russia held naval exercises in the Bering Sea.