The Su-34 strike aircraft, NATO reporting name Fullback (Image © Sukhoi)

NATO: ‘significant’ Russian military flights over Europe

The Su-34 strike aircraft, NATO reporting name Fullback (Image © Sukhoi)
Russian Su-34  Fullbacks were seen in European skies over the last two days.  (Image © Sukhoi)

It’s a return the former times as NATO forces detected and intercepted various groups of Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Black Sea on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 October 2014. The Russian operations represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace and are described by NATO as ‘significant military manoeuvers’.

In the very early hours of Wednesday 29 October, NATO radars detected and tracked eight Russian aircraft flying in formation over the North Sea in international airspace. Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16 aircraft, presumably from Bodø airbase, scrambled, intercepted and identified the Russian aircraft, which included four Tu-95 Bear H strategic bombers and four Il-78 air-to-air tankers. Two Tu-95 Bear H bombers eventually continued south-west, heading down the Norwegian coast. The Russian aircraft continued over the North Sea, by which time Typhoon fighters from the United Kingdom scrambled in response.

The Bears continued down over the Atlantic Ocean and ended up west of Portugal, where the two Russian aircraft were intercepted and identified by Força Aérea Portuguesa F-16s from Monte Real airbase. The Russian aircraft then finally turned back heading north-east, flying to the west of the United Kingdom and back towards Russia.

A Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force (Image © RAF)
Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force… (Image © RAF)
Strike a pose! Portugal operates a few dozen F-16s, of which 15108 was delivered in the mid-nineties. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
… were intercepted by Portuguese Air Force F-16s twice on Wednesday. Once over the Atlantic, and once over the Baltic Sea. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Black Sea
Also on Wednesday 29 October, NATO radars spotted four Russian 2 Tu-95 Bear-H bombers and 2 Su-27 Flanker fighter jets flying over the Black Sea in international air space. Turkish Air Force fighter aircraft intercepted the Russian aircraft and NATO continued to track them in international airspace.

Baltic Sea
It doesn’t end there. Russian aircraft – two MiG-31 Foxhounds, two Su-34 Fullbacks, one Su-27 Flanker and two Su-24 Fencers – were seen flying over the Baltic Sea in international airspace, including  Portuguese F-16 Fighters assigned to the Baltic Air Policing mission were scrambled in response and the Russian aircraft returned to Russian airspace.

Tuesday
One day earlier, on Tuesday 28 October, another flight of seven Russian combat aircraft was detected while flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.  These also included Foxhounds, Fullbacks , Flankers and Fencers. German Typhoon fighter jets from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission intercepted these flights, while Denmark and non-NATO members Sweden and Finland also sent up fighter aicraft.

A MiG-31E Foxhound against the background of its motherland (Image © Mikoyan Gurevich)
A MiG-31E Foxhound against the background of its motherland. Several of these were met over the last few days…. (Image © Mikoyan Gurevich)
A German Eurofighter EF2000. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
…. by German Eurofighter Typhoons. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

According to NATO, the Russians did not file flight plans or maintain radio contact with civilian air traffic control authorities. They were also not using on-board transponders. This could pose a risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.

Source: NATO