Monday was an unusually busy day for the NATO alliance fighter jets as they scrambled 10 times to intercept Russian military flights over the North Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea, and Baltic Sea within a span of six hours.
According to a NATO press release, the allied aircraft were scrambled 10 times on Monday to shadow this “unusual peak of flights” by Russian military aircraft, intercepting six different groups near alliance airspace in 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.
Over the North Sea, Norwegian F-16s were launched to escort the Russian formation near its 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.
On Monday 29 March, NATO fighter jets scrambled 10 times to intercept six different groups of Russian warplanes.
NATO forces from ?????????????? demonstrated their readiness and capability to guard Allied skies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
— NATO (@NATO) March 31, 2021
Although the aircraft depicted in the photographs released by the Royal Air Force were Tu-142 “Bear-F” long-range maritime patrol reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. Later that day, two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers were also intercepted.
Over the Black Sea, the Russian formation was intercepted by Turkish, Romanian, and Bulgarian fighter jets. In a separate incident, an Il-38 Maritime Patrol Aircraft was escorted by the Italian Air Force over the region.
However, details about other Russian groups weren’t disclosed. “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”.
The Tu-95 is the Russian counterpart to the American B-52 Stratofortress long-range heavy bomber. Interestingly, it has four turboprop, contra-rotating propellers with four blades each. This engine, advanced for its time, was designed by a German team of ex-Junkers prisoner-engineers under Ferdinand Brandner. This aircraft also led to the development of Tu-142, its maritime patrol/ASW variant.
The Tu-160 is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber designed in the 1970s. It is the largest and heaviest Mach 2+ supersonic military aircraft ever built and next to the experimental XB-70 Valkyrie in overall length.
As of 2021, it is the largest and heaviest combat aircraft, the fastest bomber in use, and the largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing airplane ever flown. It is strikingly similar in appearance to the American B-1 bomber, but bigger and faster and has slightly increased combat range. The aircraft is also the primary carrier of the famous “Father Of All Bombs” thermobaric munition, which is the largest conventional bomb in service.
Considering their approach, the NATO press release criticized these Russian aircraft for posing a threat to civilian aircraft in the vicinity. “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,” it said.