Russia stages mock attack on Norwegian radar, jams GPS
At first, it seemed like any other Russian training exercise. A flight of 11 Su-24 ‘Fencer’ strike aircraft took off from their air base on the frosty Kola Peninsula, flying out over the Arctic Barents Sea. But, suddenly, the supersonic aircraft swung about, sped up, and formed into an attack profile — aimed directly at a nearby Norwegian outpost.
Only at the last possible moment did they veer away.
It was February 14, 2018.
But details of the simulated first strike have only now been revealed.
The target of the Russian attack aircraft was Vardo, Norway’s northernmost town.
The fishing village is built on a small island in the Barent’s Sea. It’s an ideal vantage point from which to observe the concentration of Russian military facilities built on the nearby Kola Peninsula.
It also sits under the direct flight-path intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) would take if launched against the United States. Which is why 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.
The intelligence director warned the provocative acts came as “Russia’s rhetoric against Norway has grown sharper”.
He warned things were not likely to get any better in the year ahead.
According to the Barent’s 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 Barent’s Observer. “Such behaviour does not exactly contribute to an atmosphere of trust and predictability at the regional level.”
Atland says the mock attack was intended to intimidate.
Moscow was letting Norway know — in no uncertain terms — that it was unhappy with its recently enhanced military co-operation with NATO and the United States. And the Kremlin is also actively asserting territorial claims over much of the Polar regions as the Arctic ice retreats.
“This is the emerging security challenges that Norway is facing in the High North,” Atland says.
Russia is reportedly again 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.
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“It’s important … to say clearly that this is unacceptable,” he told television channel TV2 Nyhetskanalen. “Jamming is also a threat to, among others, civilian air traffic and police and health operations in peacetime.”
Last year, Finland summoned its Russian ambassador to complain about the jamming attacks. The Kremlin has rejected allegations that it is the cause of the disruptions.
But it is known to operate an extensive array of transmitters in the region, intended to ‘heat’ the upper ionosphere and disrupt satellite communicatinos.
Originally published as Moscow’s ‘first strike’ against Norway