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Two Russian bombers intercepted off the Belgian and British coasts (V2)

(B2) Two supersonic Russian bombers, of the Tupolev TU-160 “Blackjack” type, caused several European fighter jets to take off, in turn, on Monday (January 15).

An order from the CAOC… the Belgian F-16s take off

These two planes were operating in international airspace in the North Sea, off the Dutch coast, without having reported each other beforehand (as is the procedure). They " did not have a flight plan and were flying in areas in which all aircraft must be identifiable. They therefore broke international rules » underlined Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput (*). The CAOC (Combined Air Operations Centre), NATO's air operations coordination center, based in Uedem (Germany), then gave the order to intercept them. The Russian bombers were first intercepted by Belgian F-16s north of the Netherlands (1). The F-16s have “ took off at 11:21 am from Florennes base ". Half an hour later, exactly " at 11:51 p.m., the pilots had established a first visual contact at 9000 meters altitude with the Russian aircraft we explain on the Belgian side. " Belgian pilots did not see weapons. » (*)

… before a relay by the British fighter

They were then escorted until two British Typhoons, which had taken off from the Royal Air Force base at Lossiemouth, took over. They were evolving without having exchanged with air traffic control. What made them dangerous for all other airlines. [But to] At no time did Russian bombers enter UK sovereign airspace » we confirm on the British side. The two Tupolevs were then escorted north, out of the British zone of interest. “The threats our country faces are intensifying and we will not hesitate to defend our skies against acts of aggression” Defense Minister Gavin Williamson said in a statement.


(1) The Belgian and Dutch F-16s take turns providing the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) for the three Benelux countries, permanently ready to take off in order to react urgently to any aerial incident. The combat command centers in Glons and Nieuw-Milligen monitor the Belgo-Luxembourg and Dutch sectors respectively day and night.

(*) Updated on January 17 with the intervention of Steven Vandeput before the Chamber of Deputies.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).