NATO jets intercept Russian warplanes during unusual level of air activity

  • 29 Mar. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 30 Mar. 2021 16:01

NATO fighter jets scrambled 10 times on Monday, March 29, 2021, to shadow Russian bombers and fighters during an unusual peak of flights over the North Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea. In all, NATO aircraft intercepted six different groups of Russian military aircraft near Alliance airspace in less than six hours.

“Intercepting multiple groups of Russian aircraft demonstrates NATO forces' readiness and capability to guard Allied skies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year," said Brigadier General Andrew Hansen, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations at Allied Air Command, Ramstein, Germany.

In the High North, Norwegian F-16s scrambled after radars spotted two groups of Russian military aircraft flying near Norway’s coast. The Norwegian jets intercepted two Tu-95 Bear bombers, which continued to fly south over the North Sea prompting the United Kingdom and Belgium to scramble Typhoon and F-16 fighters, respectively. Later in the day, the Norwegian F-16s intercepted two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers over international waters. 
NATO radars also detected three Russian military aircraft near Allied airspace over the Black Sea. Turkish, Romanian and Bulgarian fighter aircraft took to the skies to track the Russian aircraft until they had left the area. Separately, Italian fighter aircraft intercepted a Russian Il 38 maritime patrol aircraft which was escorted by fighter jets over the Baltic Sea flying into and out of Kaliningrad.

The men and women at NATO’s two Combined Air Operations Centres in Uedem, Germany, and Torrejón, Spain, quickly responded to unidentified aircraft near the Alliance’s borders by launching fighters from Norway, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey to investigate and protect allied airspace”, Brigadier Hansen said, adding that NATO’s air policing mission is a “truly collective effort”.

Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate with air traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to civilian airliners. The Russian aircraft intercepted on Monday never entered Alliance airspace, and the interceptions were conducted in a safe and routine manner. Safeguarding the integrity of Alliance members’ airspace is a peacetime task contributing to NATO’s collective defence, and falls under the overall responsibility of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. Tod Wolters.