The Belgian Air Force Has Released Footage Of The Russian Tu-160 Blackjack Intercepted Over The North Sea

Here’s one of the two Tu-160s as seen through the pilot’s JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System).

On Jan. 15, two Belgian Air Force F-16s intercepted two Russian Air Force Tu-160 bombers over the North Sea.

At around 11.51 LT, the two Belgian F-16s in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) reached the two Blackjack bombers off the Netherlands, in international airspace, carried out a VID (visual identification) and shadowed the Russian aircraft until these were handed over to the British Eurofighter Typhoons.

Here’s the route followed by the two Russian bombers:

On Jan. 17, the Belgian MoD released an interesting footage filmed through the pilots JHMCS that projects flight parameters (heading, speed, altitude, etc) and aiming data onto the helmet visor (in other words, in air-to-air role, pilots can cue onboard weapons against enemy aircraft merely by pointing their heads at the targets). For this reason, the short clip below provides some details about the altitude FL270 (27,000 feet) and speed (317 knots) of the Tu-160 during the intercept.


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. At 27,000 feet and a speed of 317 knots, they certainly were not making the intercept difficult.

    • Indeed this beats can climb to 40k feet and run at mach 2.05, but they do not want to make the countries of the area nervous. :D

        • No need to make double posts. I’ve made the same mistake once. But you can see in your account which posts are still “pending”. It sometimes can take days here to get an approval from a mod.

        • If interceptors can get close enough, not a chance. If the swan is far enough, it can use distance and speed. Then again, a bird that big and that unstealthy will alert every modern early warning and intercept radar out there. Who likes roast duck?

        • What is effective range for AIM-120?
          Tu-160 will finish its job long before AIM-120 will have a chance to be fired.

        • Depends of the distance of launch of both missiles. The Pk of any missile depends of distance/aspect/height/speed and other atmospherics factors. The Tu-160 was designed to penetrate at high speed in the target area, launch their long range missiles and run out of there in time to avoid this kind of encounters with fighters.

  2. Nice old feller. Remind me again how it reacts to radar? AIM-120D? Meteor? A bomber waiting to get shot down!

    • Pretty sure the drop box for these is 2-3000km from shore.. well outside amraam or meteor range but let’s keep pretending leroy

      • Let’s keep pretending that there aren’t fighter aircraft in the air and that the Tu-160 is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

        • Pretending? Just stating the purpose of the bomber dear sir. One that doesn’t involve doing the tango with any fighters.

        • There are very few strategic bomber designs in the world that are now in operation, so of course each of them is almost bound to be unique and best at something. Tu-160 is the fastest and with the longest reach by far, with its missiles having longer range than most fighter aircraft.

    • Just like B-52s and B-1Bs.
      The only difference is that Blackjack can fly faster, climb higher and has much longer hands with its Kh-555 and Kh-101.
      So good luck chasing it in the skies!

      • Just like our current cruise missiles these can easily be shot down. We get around this via MALD and its variants. I’m sure the Russians have their own MALD types. FYI the new LRSO will be much more difficult to hit. Is there are Russian version?

        • Russia already performs trials of hypersonic cruise missile. Have you heard of Zircon?

      • Speed is good when it’s used at the right time. The Tu-160 won’t go towards an airspace on a full tank. Stealthy fighter aircraft with powerful advanced AESA radars in combination with early warning radars will give the Tu-160 a hard time, wont matter much how far out it can punch.

        • No AESA radar has effective range comparable with the range of Kh-101/555. Stealthy fighter will have to seek for cruise missles, while Tu-160 is already heading to its base.

    • That’s why they’re armed with missiles reportedly capable of hitting targets 3000+ miles away. They’re flying those bombers so close to NATO airspace and with no escort mainly to train their pilots and to “fly the flag”, I assume.

      • And those missiles can be shot down by AEGIS ships w/Standard interceptors. Or a nearby carrier can intercept the aircraft. Perhaps even an F-22 or F-35 will be lurking, waiting, in Russian airspace. : )

        • Not sure exactly where do you propose to position the ships between Russia and, say, Brussels. Is there some secret plan to send a fleet of Arleigh Burkes down the river Elbe?

  3. The White Swan, it’s always fascinating to see this formidable aircraft back on duty. Its unrivaled characteristics making it still absolutely the world class. Stealth? You don’t need that when you are about to strike your enemy from thousands kilometers away. Kh-101/102? Would easily wipe out anything. The powerful NK-32 turbofans (most powerful turbofan ever installed on a military aircraft) would easily do its job and get this beauty to Mach 2 without any problem, leaving all potentional interceptors far behind.

    With the serial production of even better Tu-160M2, that is about to begin soon, NATO fighters will have surely busy days when the “White Swans” will shadowing the European and U.S. coasts still more and more frequently and in full strenght, keeping the world balanced and safe.

  4. The Tu160 ran towards West targets, IMHO it was a stupid fligh plan, much longer way to reach nord europe coast, rather than pass through scandinavian air space as if it could be in a real hot warfare. So for one moment, lets imagine Tu160 made only a mockup mission to hide the real targets in Est Siberia rather in Western Europe. So here it’s my question: if Tu160 had flew towards Est Siberian targets, what kind of target Tu160 would have reached?!

      • Vladivostok, may be Sakhalin Island too, but in one way course only.

        But flying in a round trip, the maximum combact radius of Tu160 is 7300/2=3650km and this means to me, the hypothetical targets are somewhere around the Lena river delta: and the airport where the Tu160 took off it could be interesting!.

        In this hypothetical particular mockup mission, it seems to me a course of 2600km=5200km/2 so the siberian target would be somewhere around the Laptev sea, and this is interesting too.

  5. I mean it will keep military power in the world balanced. The opposite side will not try to use their nukes when they will be aware it would be their own destruction. More “White Swans” on patrol will be just much clearer message of it.

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