NATO worried by an “unusual level of Russian air activity over European airspace”: 19 warplanes intercepted today

Russian air activity across Europe is surging: three more formations intercepted today.

As reported yesterday, on Oct. 28, the German Air Force Eurofighter jets on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) to provide NATO Baltic Air Policing were scrambled to intercept 2x MiG-31 Foxhound, 2x Su-34 Fullback, 1x Su-27 Flanker and 2x Su-24 Fencer jets over the Baltic Sea.

The following day, Oct. 29, three large packages of Russian planes skirting NATO “airspace” were detected and monitored by aircraft on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) in both northern Europe and Turkey.

“These sizable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” said NATO in an official statement.

At approximately 3:00 a.m. CET NATO radars detected and tracked eight Russian aircraft flying in formation over the North Sea, in international airspace.

The Royal Norwegian Air Force scrambled its F-16s in QRA that intercepted and identified the Russian aircraft as four Tu-95 Bear H strategic bombers and four Il-78 tanker aircraft.

In what can be seen as a “show of force”, two of the Russian strategic bombers flew parallel to the Norwegian coast, heading to the south-west and were intercepted by Eurofighter Typhoon jets scrambled by the Royal Air Force (whereas the remaining 6 Russian Air Force planes returned towards Russia).

West of Portugal the two Bears were intercepted by F-16s from the Portuguese Air Force.

According to NATO, “The bomber and tanker aircraft from Russia did not file flight plans or maintain radio contact with civilian air traffic control authorities and they were not using on-board transponders. This poses a potential risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.”

Later on the same day, whilst the Tu-95 returned towards Russia, NATO radars detected and tracked four Russian aircraft flying over the Black Sea in international air space: 2 Tu-95 Bear-H bombers and 2 Su-27 Flanker fighter jets.

Turkish Air Force F-16s were scrambled and intercepted the Russian aircraft in international airspace.

During the afternoon of Oct. 29 October, NATO radars detected and tracked 7 Russian planes over the Baltics (needless to say, in international airspace): 2x MiG-31 Foxhound, 2x Su-34 Fullback, 1x Su-27 Flanker and 2x Su-24 Fencer jets (these were probably the very same aircraft intercepted on Oct. 28).

Portuguese F-16 Fighters assigned to the Baltic Air Policing Mission were scrambled from Šiauliai, Lithuania. It’s unclear whether they reached the package or not; anyway, the Russian Air Force planes returned to Russia’s airspace.
Image credit: UK MoD / Crown Copyright

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. You said:

    “Don’t think they can’t fly these missions with Tu-160s instead’.

    What missions?

    You don’t need strategic bombers (it is even ineffective) any-more to
    delver nuclear payloads; in a symmetrical nuclear conflict it will be
    launched with (supersonic) cruise missiles or ICBM’s.

    • Satellite paths can be predicted well before it’s over an area; which gives the enemy time to hide whatever they don’t want to be seen. Meanwhile with a SR-72 going at Mach 6 they will have much less time to hide, if any at all.

      • And that’s why the US has among the X-37B, much faster -Orbital speed: 17,426 mph- than the SR-72 and we still don’t know what the (spy) capabilities are.

        A few satellites above enemy territory are geostationary, so there is no place to hide, day or night.

  2. When you need a dump truck of an airplane to drop bombs on rag tag outfits that do not have an air force and limited anti-air capability(basically man pads). Its effective I wouldnt want to be riding on a b-52 against a nation that has an air force even if its old mig-21’s and suhoki’s.

  3. If some small Balkan country “Serbia” killed US stealth jet i can only imagine what can Russia do?

    • Tee Hee! Stealth is overrated, especially in the days of AESA.

      I wonder how many 50-year old Lockheed Martin contractors maintaining the hangar queen “Stealth” “5th” Generation fighters will stand up when the airbase is attacked.

  4. Merkel was not only a card carrying member of the DDR Communist Party, she was the Secretary of the Communist Youth!

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