B-1 bombers flew the first Bomber Task Force mission since deployment to Norway, the US Air Force said on Friday, in a show of force near Russian naval bases.
The two bombers arrived in Norway earlier this week. Support aircraft and over 200 Air Force personnel arrived at Orland Air Base, where Norway’s F-35 fleet is also stationed, in the first week of February.
On Friday, the planes “conducted tactical missions with Norwegian F-35 and Norwegian naval assets in the Norwegian Sea,” a US Air Force statement said on Friday.
The sea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean in the Arctic area, is adjacent to the Barents Sea, waters regarded as “Russia’s Naval Backyard” and the home of the Russian Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarines.
Russia was not specifically mentioned in any US Air Force statement since the B-1s arrived on Monday in Norway, but Gen. Jeff Harrigan, commander of US Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa, made reference to motivations for the deployment.
“It’s fitting we got to kick this BTF off with a mission that highlights our ability to integrate with our Norwegian [NATO] allies across multiple domains. This type of interoperability is especially critical in the Arctic where no one nation has the infrastructure or capacity to operate alone,” Harrigan said.
An earlier US Air Force statement said the first B-1 mission would be over the “East Barents Sea.” It was changed to the Norwegian Sea, which is west of Norway.
Last week the Russian Defense Ministry announced the potential for missile tests in the area between Feb. 18 and Feb. 24.
“Impact area for Russian missiles,” read a short notice regarding a danger area activated north of mainland Norway. The announcement could be interpreted as Moscow’s displeasure over the arrival of the B-1s to Norway, officials have said.
The mission is the latest in B-1 visits to the Arctic region.
Last May, B-1Bs integrated with English, Swedish, Dutch and Norwegian aircraft for exercises that included the Lancer’s first flight over Sweden.
In September, two B-1B Lancers also flew directly over the North Pole to Greenland as part of a two-week training mission in conjunction with Norway’s air force.