Norwegian P-3 maritime patrol aircraft’s close encounter with an aggressive Russian Mig-31 Foxhound

According to the Norwegian newspaper Andoyposten which gave the news, Apr. 10, 2012 will go down as a date that one particular Royal Norwegian Air Force P-3 crew will never forget.

Whilst flying over the Barents Sea on a routine mission, the P-3 Orion came across a Russian Air Force Mig-31 Foxhound. Nothing unusual, apparently, as the RNoAF planes come close to the Russian ones, especially when the Norwegian F-16s are called to intercept Russian aircraft approaching Norwegian airspace, normally without incident.

However, on this occasion, the Norwegian crew initially observed the Mig-31 twice shadowing the P-3 at a safe distance, then disappearing. Moments later the Russian fighter jet came back from behind the patrol aircraft, so fast and close it was in danger of a mid-air collision.

Fortunately, in spite of the “uncomfortable distance” the Orion did not collide with the Foxhound and the aircraft could safely return to its homebase.

Quite upset by such shows of bravado by the Russian interceptor Lt. Col. John Espen Lien, communications director of the RNoAF HQ said that the incident “will be dicussed with the Russian Armed Forces”.

On Sept. 13, 1987, a RNoAF P-3B had a mid air collision in similar circumstances with a Soviet Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker over the Barents Sea.

Although damaged, both planes were able to land safely, but both episodes show how close encounters are inherently dangerous.

By the way, do you remember the Hainan Island Incident when a U.S. EP-3E collided with a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) J-8II interceptor?

David Cenciotti contributed to this post.

Image credit: Matt Morgan / Flickr