A U.S. Air Force plane that can measure radiation levels in the air has been deployed to England and might be flying missions over northern Europe after radioactive particles were detected in the region.
It is unclear what the source of the radiation is, but some believe Russia is testing nuclear weapons near the Barents Sea. According to The Daily Mail, a WC-135 Constant Phoenix is on the hunt and is now flying out of RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England.
The Constant Phoenix — known as a "sniffer" — has equipment that takes air samples as it flies, which are then tested by analysts on board the plane or on the ground. The Aviationist reported last week the plane flew to England from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
Popular Mechanics reported a Constant Phoenix was heading toward the North Sea on Wednesday when its transponder was switched off. Later, three KC-135 airborne tankers — which could support a WC-135 mission — were spotted on their way back from the North Sea area.
Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen, however, told DOD Buzz the Constant Phoenix is in England on a "pre-planned rotational deployment scheduled in advance."
Air Force chief spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder added the plane "regularly flies around the world for missions. Any of the reporting in terms of having another reason [is] not grounded in fact."
Elevated levels of Iodine-131, a product of nuclear fission, were picked up by air quality sensors in Norway, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, and Spain last month.
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