Between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, NATO flies its fighter planes
Between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, NATO flies its fighter planes

| Dorian de Schaepmeester | Source : Air&Cosmos 623 mots

Between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, NATO flies its fighter planes

Seven months after the start of the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin's speech on the morning of September 21 reignited the escalation on the sidelines of a general assembly held at the United Nations. A few hours later, the journalistic and OSINT community noted the presence of numerous military aircraft in the air over northeastern Europe, linked to a NATO exercise in the region.

Flying over a powder keg

September 24, 2022 will mark the seventh month of Russia's war in Ukraine. As new conflicts blossom around the Russian federation, notably between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Kremlin broadcast a pre-recorded speech by Vladimir Putin on Sept. 21 announcing the establishment of a "partial" mobilization. The objective: to replenish faltering troops while Ukrainian forces carry out a lightning offensive in the east of the country. The Russian leader reiterated threats to use nuclear weapons in the event of "aggression" by Ukraine or NATO countries on Russian territory. 

During the morning, from many Internet users noted on social networks the presence of fighter jets flying over the North Sea and Baltic Sea. On the Flightradar24 website, which enables real-time monitoring of the vast majority of civilian and military flights around the world, several aircraft such as AWACS detection and command aircraft or fighters were observed maneuvering between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. If there was any concern, the presence of these aircraft in this region is due to a military exercise conducted from the United Kingdom and named Cobra Warrior. On August 31, the Royal Air Force published an article stating that Waddington Air Force Base, located in eastern England, was hosting Italian, German and even American aircraft. The British government said Cobra Warrior is mobilizing six Italian Typhoon Eurofighters, six Luftwaffe Tornados and several U.S. F-16s, F-15s and F-35As used by the U.S. Air Force's 48th Fighter Wing. A few HH-60 helicopters from the 56th Rescue Squadron were mobilized.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense had said a NATO Boeing E-3A Sentry was joining the exercise, providing additional support to the fighters operating during Cobra Warrior. The airborne command post was briefly seen on Flightradar24. 

B-52 in the air: a warning to Russia? 

In the northeastern part of the European Union, residents of the municipality of Jokkmokk, Sweden, spent part of the day on Sept. 21 unaware that two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers were circling above their heads. Registered as RUMOR11 and RUMOR12, the two subsonic bombers flew for more than three hours in Swedish airspace before shutting down their transponders. This was a clear message to Russia, as the B-52s can carry AGM-129 and AGM-86A missiles, equipped with nuclear warheads. The two bombers were then located at a few tens of minutes of flight from Saint Petersburg and Moscow. RUMOR 11 and 12 had taken off from Fairford Air Force Base, west of London, in the late morning.

Although the B-52 is capable of dropping conventional bombs and missiles, it is likely that the U.S. wished to conduct "signalling." This method, used repeatedly by Russia and NATO since the beginning of the conflict, allows one to signal one's opponent about one's strategic and military capabilities, the most convincing example being to have certain aircraft perform unusual maneuvers. In March 2022, observers had noted the flight of several official and military aircraft from Moscow airports, especially airborne command posts such as the II-96  or "Doomsday plane", allowing the Russian government to carry out a nuclear attack or counter-offensive. NATO member countries, meanwhile, have sent several drones for reconnaissance missions in the Black Sea and near the Ukrainian theater. 

IMG_4936.jpg © Flightradar24
Un B-52 présenté en 2011 lors d'un salon aérien se déroulant en Australie.
Un B-52 présenté en 2011 lors d'un salon aérien se déroulant en Australie. © Z3144228, Wikimedia Commons
Un B-52 présenté en 2011 lors d'un salon aérien se déroulant en Australie.

The Cobra Warrior exercise concludes Sept. 23. Another NATO-led multilateral operation concluded Sept. 21, NOCO 22 (for "Northern Coasts"), focusing exclusively on the naval arm of the organization's forces. In the coming months, NATO will conduct three more exercises: MARE APERTO 22.2, POSEIDON 22 and COMBINED RESOLVE XVIII. POSEIDON 22, taking place in the Black Sea between November 4 and 11, will be conducted in a difficult context, with Russia conducting its offensive on Ukraine from the Black Sea, primarily through its military bases positioned in Crimea. 

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