Spike in Russian Air Force activity in Europe may be a reaction to large US Strategic Command bombers exercise

Oct 30 2014 - 15 Comments

Usually, after every Global Thunder, the Russians launch similar long range bomber missions.

On Oct. 29, the U.S. Strategic Command concluded its largest yearly exercise. On the very same day, the Russian Air Force launched three packages which included of a mix of bombers and escort fighters for a total of 19 warplanes (26 if we consider also the close encounter on Oct. 28): a surge in missions flown close to European airspaces that NATO defined “unusual.

A mere coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

Exercise Global Thunder 15 (first exercise for FY 2015, hence the 15) “is a command and control exercise designed to train Department of Defense forces and assess joint operational readiness across all of USSTRATCOM’s mission areas with a specific focus on nuclear readiness.”

Conducted in coordination with North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command’s Exercise Vigilant Shield 15 (attended by tactical warplanes with the aim to train homeland defense forces), Global Thunder 15 is a realistic exercise during which nearly every USSTRATCOM component, task force, unit, command post and bomb wing takes part in the training events which are aimed at improving all the Command capabilities: space, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, global strike, and ballistic missile defense.

On a 24-hour period, yearly Global Thunders foresee intense B-52 and B-2s perform their MITO departures and going up to the Arctic and back, controlled by several E-6B Mercury aircraft.

Some strategic bombers route up over Nova Scotia and up past Thule/Greenland and either go all the way around North of Canada and back down through Canada/Alaska or they turn round and go back the way they came. Other waves go up over Alaska first and come back down viceversa.

A one-day simulated nuclear war.

Richard Cliff, a reader of The Aviationist and military aviation expert noticed that, usually after every Global Thunder, the Russians seem to launch similar long-range bomber missions, as those that caused the alert scrambles by NATO QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) cells across Europe.

Therefore, Global Strike proves Russian bombers are not the only ones to fly in the Arctic or perform simulated long-range nuclear missions. At the same time, the exercise may be one of the reasons behind the spike in the Russian activities in Europe (even though we can’t but notice that the amount of close encounters has increased in the last couple of years regardless to whether there was a US Strategic Command in the same period or not).

Global Thunder 15

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


  • JC Chuta

    Funny how Russia has an indespensable amount of Rubles to maintain and constantly upgrade “the” biggest arsenal of weaponry ever seen in history. Yet, Russia never has any money to assist victims of earthquakes, typhoons, and other world tragedies that happen numerous times per year. Similarly, China building up an arsenal that will soon match Russia’s, yet they’re also no where to be seen during world disasters. I am baffled as to why the rest of the world does not notice this obvious discrepancy on world order!

    • Callsign Vega

      It’s because they don’t care. They look at the United States that is involved and provides care and assistance and what do we get in return from the rest of the world? Bitching and complaining.. I now understand why Russia and China don’t care.

    • Grach25

      Russia spends roughly a half billion dollars on aid each year. They rank around number thirty in the world. You can Google that. They also were one of the first to offer assistance for hurricane Katrina. That was great of them mean old Russians!

    • They don’t notice because they’d have to give America credit for what we do to help them whenever there is a disaster.

    • Andrew Tubbiolo

      As everyone here knows Russia and China have closed governments. Also most nations like to put their best face forward and say this represents our entire nation. The US on the other hand puts its worst face forward and proudly says “This is us.”. The Russians and Chinese have the same problems and worse, when it comes to systems development, than the US. We just don’t see the failures on the surface. But if you look you’ll see them. The development of the Sukhoi Superjet was very problematic, and looks to become a commercial failure. Don’t forget the extremely long development cycle of the Su-27. It took 20 years for that aircraft to become what it is. The lack of a viable Russian airliner for the world market. The failure of the Chinese ARJ-21, and the delays of C919, and the debacle of the early days of the J-15. The US had to help save the J-8 back in the 80’s.

      Casting the net a little wider, before the 787, people were comparing the A380 to the L1011 with respect to delays in development. But as always America came from behind on that one and re-gained her lead in aircraft delays with the 787. We’re not alone in any way when it comes to problems bringing new systems to operation. The Russians did play their game well in the 90’s and in the naughts. They slowly modified the systems they had on hand and spent their money wisely on systems that would greatly benefit from what little money they had invest. In comparison to us Americans who squandered our money and strategic standing on essentially nothing, they do look … mildly okay.

  • You see when you can print as many dollars as you want to it is possible to make magnanimous gestures in the hope that it will gain you allies. When the bottom falls out of the petrodollar we will see how generous the U.S. can afford to be with honestly backed currency. In any case has anyone ever tried to evaluate how many so-called natural disasters have been caused by the HAARP weather weapon?

    • Stock up on that tin foil, buddy. Sounds like you’re going to be making a lot of hats.

    • Jon

      This guy knows what’s REALLY going on!

    • Keep an eye on the new Denver airport.

  • kusanagi no tsurugi

    Just like the 6 out 39 airworthy Spanish typhoons…

  • That “little kid” has enough nuclear missiles aimed at the U.S. to destroy every major city and military installation.

  • Jer

    What is that in the hanger? Looks like a flaying wing, roughly the same shape as the B-2, however it looks like its only dressed in it’s anti-corrosion paint. B-2 getting reskinned? B-3? Highly distorted picture of something as simple as a cargo plane?

    • Jer

      Yes – that’s exactly what i’m on, psychedelics, which is why I asked for clarification on what I might be looking at. Apparently allowing for it to be a B-2 isn’t good enough! Unlike you guy’s, I have never seen a B-2 without its black special coating.


  • OR

    True Russia is not even near to be able to match NATO or better say US capabilities.. But I don’t think they behave childishly, looks like they are just trying to do some training wich is anyway useful to maintain some level of skills and figure out what would be the most efucient way to use what they have at the moment, in case they realy need to. By the way even this obsolete fleet at least second best in the world

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    If the Russians do re-deploy the Mig-31 further North, These SAC ….er I mean STRATCOM exercises might have some new company. Notice how the Russians always send their Tu-22M’s out to play in Western Europe with escorts? I’ll bet the Canadians will be escorting B-52’s, and B-2’s in years to come.