NATO fighters intercepted half a dozen groups of Russian military aircraft near alliance airspace in under 6 hours

·3 min read
NATO fighter intercepts Russian military aircraft
NATO fighter intercepts Russian military aircraft. NATO
  • NATO scrambled jets 10 times Monday to intercept Russian military planes near alliance airspace.

  • Fighters intercepted six groups of Russian military aircraft in less than six hours, NATO said.

  • The same day, NORAD identified and tracked a Russian maritime patrol aircraft operating near Alaska.

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NATO jets responded on Monday to an unusually high number of Russian military aircraft flights near allied airspace.

Alliance fighter aircraft were "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," the organization said in a statement.

In less than six hours, fighters intercepted six different groups of Russian military aircraft, NATO said.

Norwegian and Belgian F-16s, as well as British Typhoons, intercepted a pair of Tu-95 Bear bombers, the organization said. Norwegian fighters also intercepted two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers. Turkish, Romanian, and Bulgarian fighters responded to three groups of Russian military aircraft over the Black Sea. And Italian fighters intercepted a Russian maritime patrol aircraft over the Baltic Sea.

Though Russian military aircraft flights near NATO airspace are not uncommon, it is out of the ordinary to see that many flights in a single day.

Last year, NATO countries scrambled fighter aircraft over 400 times to intercept questionable aircraft, and 90% of those aircraft were Russian.

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The alliance said Monday that "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 military aircraft intercepted Monday never entered alliance airspace, NATO said, adding that all intercepts were safe and routine.

"Intercepting multiple groups of Russian aircraft demonstrates NATO forces' readiness and capability to guard Allied skies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," Brig. Gen. Andrew Hansen, the deputy chief of staff operations at Allied Air Command, said.

As NATO fighter jets intercepted Russian military aircraft in Europe, the bilateral North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which defends the US and Canada, identified and tracked two Tu-142 Russian maritime patrol aircraft in international airspace near Alaska.

Recently, the NORAD commander, US Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, told Congress that "Russia continues to conduct frequent military operations in the approaches to North America."

The general added that last year, "NORAD responded to more Russian military flights off the coast of Alaska than we've seen in any year since the end of the Cold War." These flights involved heavy bombers, anti-submarine aircraft, and intelligence assets.

"Russia presents a persistent, proximate threat to the United States and Canada and remains the most acute challenge to our homeland defense mission," VanHerck said in his testimony.

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