‘New Cold War’ at the top of the world

Across the frozen Arctic north, Russia and the West are squaring up in a new confrontation as they seek to control the region’s natural resources and vital sea routes. Tim Ripley looks at how rival air forces are at the centre of events in this strategically important area.

The view from a USAF B-52H as three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s, another B-52, and a KC-135R assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing from RAF Mildenhall, Su_ olk, fly together during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1 over the Barents Sea region of the Arctic Circle on November 6, 2019. The RAF’s deputy commander for operations, AM Gerry Mayhew, said the mission was “about interoperability. We have to work together in peace so we can push the message out that we’re ready to do anything, anywhere.” USAF/Airman 1st Class Duncan C Bevan

The USAF’s B-2A stealth bomber is the ultimate symbol of American military might. The batwing jet attracts headlines wherever it goes, so when an example landed at Iceland’s Keflavik Air Base last August it received extensive coverage from local and international media. After its refuelling stop in Iceland, the bomber headed to RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, to continue its new Arctic mission. A few days later, the B-2 ventured into new territory when it headed north towards the Arctic Circle, flying around the top of Norway’s North Cape. Within hours of the B-2 returning to its forward operating location in the UK, the US Air Forces in Europe had posted images of the Arctic flight online.

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