The Russian MiG was not aggressive, but its behavior was unusual
Norway's Defence Ministry says it's an example of what its pilots face
It's not clear if MiG pilot miscalculated distance to Norwegian jet, ministry says
It was a routine call for the Norwegian fighter pilot participating in NATO’s Quick Reaction Alert mission, high in the sky off Norway’s coast.
He was tasked with investigating and identifying an aircraft that had entered the mission’s patrol area in international airspace northwest of Norway.
Fluffy clouds dotted the piercing blue atmosphere, and it looked like it would be a non-eventful mission, until something gray darted in front of the Norwegian pilot’s F-16 – a Russian MiG fighter, according to the Norwegian Defence Ministry.
“What the hell!” is a loose, relatively polite translation of what he’s heard saying on video released by Norwegian military.
“He was surprised and he expressed it,” Norwegian Navy Cmdr. Gens Hoilund told CNN Wednesday in a telephone interview.
The video appears to be recorded from the Norwegian jet’s own camera, and shows the Russian fighter in the lower right quadrant of the shot. The Norwegian aircraft then banks sharply to the left to maneuver away from the MiG.
The encounter took place sometime in the past two years, Hoilund said.
The video was released to show just “an example of the kind of situations that our pilots flying the NATO QRA missions can encounter,” said Capt. Brynjar Stordal, information officer for the National Joint Headquarters Norway, in a statement Wednesday.
“We do not know if this incident was caused by the Russian pilot miscalculating the distance to the Norwegian fighter, or if it was an intentional maneuver. There have been a few incidents like this over the years, but I would like to press that the majority of the (identifications) made by Norwegian fighters take place without incident,” Stordal’s statement added.
Jet’s behavior unusual
The Russian jet didn’t appear to be acting in an aggressive manner, Hoilund said, but it’s not clear what it was doing.
“He came too close (to the Norwegian fighter), but he was not aggressive,” he said.
Hoilund explained that a pilot he spoke to – not the pilot in the video – said it was an unusual situation, and that pilot couldn’t recall any similar behavior in the recent past.
“When we observe unknown planes we identify them, so it was a normal mission for us to go and identify this plane,” Hoilund said.
There was no attempt to make radio contact with the Russian jet, he said.
Stordal said it’s important to note that Norway has not experienced the same increase in Russian air activity in its area of responsibility as has been seen by partners in the Baltic region.
“Last year we had 41 scrambles and identified 58 Russian aircraft. As of now, the numbers are 43/69 for 2014,” the ministry statement said.
NATO partners identify aircraft
The NATO Quick Reaction Alert mission tasks partners with patrolling the skies to identify suspicious aircraft.
“This enables the Alliance to detect, track and identify to the greatest extent possible all aerial objects approaching or operating within NATO airspace so that violations and infringements can be recognized, and the appropriate action taken,” said a statement on NATO’s website.