March 9 (UPI) -- The first interception and shadow of Russian aircraft by an F-35A fighter plane was conducted over the weekend by the Norwegian Air Force, officials said.
When two Russian Tu-142 anti-submarine aircraft, with MiG-31 fighter planes escorting them, came close to Norway's airspace on Saturday, two Norwegian F-16 planes on NATO's "Quick Reaction Alert" took off from Orland Air Station to identify and shadow them.
The F-16s were later relieved by two F-35As, also scrambled from Orland. British Typhoon planes later took over the mission of shadowing the Russian planes until they departed. The operation took 13 hours and was supported by tanker aircraft, according to The Aviationist.
"I am glad that the F-35 now contributes to understanding the situation and presence in our immediate areas," Lt. Gen. Rune Jakobsen of the Norwegian Air Force said of the mission. "Our fighter jets can now take care of both Iceland and home. This shows that we have taken major and important steps towards getting operational benefit from the F-35."
Norway has seven operational F-35As, with nine more currently undergoing testing and integration, of a planned fleet of 52. The F-35As used in Saturday's intercept incident were deployed three weeks ago to Iceland.
Submarines and ships of NATO partners are currently involved in bringing supplies to Cold Response, a multinational exercise underway in Norway, which ends on March 18.