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01:17 PM, February 14, 2019
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Sukhoi Su-24 (image: Youtube)

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 fleet consisting of 11 aircraft conducted a surprise mock attack on Norwegian targets

The aircraft on a routine training exercise took off from Kola Peninsula located in the northwestern part of Russia, flew over the Arctic Barents Sea and formed into an attack profile aiming directly at Vardo, Norway’s northernmost town.

The ‘Fencer’ strike aircraft suddenly swung about, sped up and formed into the attack profile aiming at the Norwegian outpost, veering away just in time, news.com.au reported Thursday.

The surprise mock attack exercise was conducted on February 14, 2018. However, the details of the simulated strike have only now been revealed.

Vardo is located on a small island in the Barents Sea, an ideal vantage point from which to observe the concentration of Russian military facilities built on the nearby Kola Peninsula.

The town also sits under the direct flight-path intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) would take if launched against the United States. As a result of which Vardo is home to a powerful radar system designed to track rocket launches and objects in space.

Lieutenant General Morten Haga Lunde of the Norwegian Intelligence Service earlier this week revealed Russia staged two such practice attack runs last year.

According to the Barents Observer news service, Norwegian defence analyst Kristian Atland says he believed the attack run to have been a “deliberate and carefully planned Russian signalling operation”.

“Obviously, the Russians know that their fighter jets are being tracked by radar when they operate in this region and when they approach Norwegian installations, bases or naval exercise areas in attack formation,” he told the Barents Observer.

“The mock attack was intended to intimidate. Such behaviour does not exactly contribute to an atmosphere of trust and predictability at the regional level. This is the emerging security challenges that Norway is facing in the High North,” Atland added.

Russia is reportedly jamming GPS signals in Norway’s far north, after several similar incidents last year.

General Lunde also expressed concern that commercial and military aircraft were again reporting wayward navigational data.

Speaking at the release of Norway’s annual national risk assessment, he said efforts to track the cause of disruption pointed to sources across the border in Russia.

The jamming also tended to coincide with military exercises, the most significant of which was last year’s NATO Trident Juncture manoeuvres.

“This is clearly unacceptable. Jamming is also a threat to, among others, civilian air traffic and police and health operations in peacetime,” Lunde was quoted by TV2 Nyhetskanalen as saying.

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