Even the Portuguese Air Force has intercepted and photographed Russian bombers wandering across Europe

The two Russian Bears that skirted European airspaces on Friday were also intercepted by the F-16s of the Portuguese Air Force.

On Oct. 31, two F-16 Fighting Falcon jets of the FAP (Portuguese Air Force) were scrambled to intercept two Russian Air Force Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers.

The Russian planes were detected by Portugal’s Air Defense System (DA) as they approached the nortwestern part of Portugal’s FIR flying southbound, not in contact with any Air Traffic Control agency.

The two F-16s on permanent alert at Monte Real Air Base were launched to perform a visual identification of the two “intruders”.

The QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) fighter jets performed a very similar mission to that they had flown on Oct. 29; however, this time the intercepted aircraft kept heading toward the south until they turned north.

The two Portuguese interceptors escorted the Bears until they departed the airspace of Portugal’s responsibility.

Another pair of F-16s was readied for take off just in case the Russian aircraft reversed their northboud route.

H/T Armando “Squid” Leitao for the heads-up

PoAF intercept Tu-95 2

Image credit: Portuguese Air Force


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. So this was in international airspace? I’m loving the photos here. Hopefully someone will release some video of a future intercept. The Tu95 which is essentially a 60,000 hp version of a B29 with swept wings is a really fascinating aircraft. 15,000 km range and I read somewhere costs around $25m which is a steal compared to the likes of a B1B or the Tu160.

    • Totally agree, write off Bears and your writing off a very capable strategic bomber. Tu95’s are currently undergoing avionics upgrades so while the frame is old & tired, it’s sting is still very much lethal

      Talk above of lighting them up is pointless, Russia wouldn’t send aircraft without the upgrades, light them up and your active radar becomes one step closer to useless during war times

      • And by the way,if one forgets for the moment Ukraine,etc, relation between West and Russia,and just watch carefully- Tu 95 is a beautiful airplane, I saw it in Monino museum near Moscow (which is open for foreigners for 450rubles- 10-13 US dolars fee).Also,in exposition there is its passenger twin – Tu 114 (which used to fly Moscow-Kuba in early 60es without stop-over)


    • Its engines were built with effort of best German (prisoner) scientist,and perfected by best Russian constructors..It has very few accidents in 60 years of service and it is one of most reliable planes EVER

  2. I’ve pondered what these countries should be doing and the best I’ve been able to come up with would be for these fighters to sit on the tail of these bombers with their air-to-air missile radars active, but the safeties on.

    These Russian bombers have alarms that go off in such situations. Let those pilots know that they’re just seconds from being blown out of the skies.


    During the Vietnam war I worked for a USAF contractor at a radar site that mimicked a Soviet SAM missile site. At the height of the war, we were running ECM missions back-to-back, so we rarely shut down the radar, which has a very distinctive signal.

    Interestingly, there were a few times when faint but obvious jamming appeared on our radar, generally when it was pointed north from our Florida panhandle location. True or not, I liked to image some bomber pilot, perhaps a hundred or two hundred miles inland, have his SAM missile-tracking radar alert coming on, saying, “what the heck,” and turning on his jamming equipment.

    I suspect the real reason was something more prosaic like an aircraft on the nearby AFB being readied for a mission against us.

    I just checked out the location of that radar site on Google satellite. It’s blanked out, so it must still have some military purpose.

    • InklingBooks, They are flying in international airspace. Some minor encroachments into the 12 nautical mile limits do take place such as the Bears earlier this year off the Dutch coast. Even with those minor incursions there is no lighting up radars or activating missiles. The interceptions are conducted in a professional manner from the NATO perspective. In those cases of encroachment it will simply be a warning to leave on the guard frequency.

  3. “Even the Portuguese Air Force”? What kind of title is this? And why not since during the Cold War we had to control Soviet air and naval activity near continental Portugal and the Azores archipelago almost everyday? And yes, the abbreviation for Portuguese Air Force is, in portuguese of course, FAP or Força Aérea Portuguesa.

    • I think that “Even the Portuguese Air Force” means that it’s quite unusual to see Russian aircrafts that far from their country. I can say that’s the first time I read an article depicting Portuguese fighters escorting Tu-95s, we more used to see it happens over northern Europe.

    • Carlos,
      the title implies that most people believe the Russian bombers are only keeping North Europe’s countries air forces under pressure.
      Many don’t expect the bombers to reach Portugal. The same title would apply to Spain, Italy or any other country that is not required to intercept Russian Tu-95s every day.

  4. I feel for the crews of these museum pieces. They’re certainly aware of the West’s capability to drop these beasts out of the sky at will. The terror of a Bear as they had in the late 60’s/early 70’s has fallen as quickly as the Wall came down. If these incursions were performed by Blackjacks or Backfires, my hair might stand-up as this would definitely be Power Projection! I agree with InklingBooks; go active with the heatseekers and set off the Bear’s RWR (the poor airman in the rear turret!!) and just corral their asses back to Russia. Putin swinging his old dick.

    • Watch a Russian military doco and you’ll see Russian experts briefing pilots that their turbo props are efficient in comparison to the jet powered B52, they don’t feel bad about their Bears at all

      If you light them up, then they win, they then know your radar frequency & profile.

      • The engines are more efficient. But the ’52 still has longer legs. Even without the globe full of tankers ready to refuel it. There’s a planet full of allied air forces to take care of the Bear if those times come back. If it were for real, they would not get far.

      • Turboprops are more fuel efficient than turbojets, it is known. And it’s 4 engines vs 8

    • Is the actual aircraft that important?!?! I’d say that a volley of Kh-101/Kh-102’s launched out of this old craft or out of the Tu-160 would hurt equally. Same with this old F-16 – it can kill as effectively as the more impressive Typhoon/JAS-39.

    • Actually,it is one of best airplanes ever,and safest.Also, it has rockets which you can`t protect yourselves from…if you dare to comment on airplane forum,at least read something about different types and models of airplanes etc.
      No,west CAN`T afford to “drop from the sky” even a single Tu by no means,as most probably they have nuclear bombs ready,and shooting it down would mean the end of Western civilisation as only few thermonuclear are enough…

    • I dunno, The tu160 is a far more expensive machine to run and you want to use that strategically where most effective. The tu95 is like an old sledgehammer – really crude but skill has a use. Id guess the purpose of the tu95 here was to totally get seen, hence lumbering around slowly is totally an asset. Russia has as few as 8 serviceable tu160s I understand – so deployment has to be very carefully managed.

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