NATO jets intercept two Russian bombers

PARIS, Oct. 5 (UPI) — Fighter jets from Norway, Britain, France and Spain intercepted two Russian Blackjack bombers when they flew from Norway to northern Spain and returned, officials said.

The incident involving NATO allies occurred on Sept. 22 but details weren’t revealed until a statement by the French Ministry of Defense. The planes skirted the nations’ airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles from the coasts.

The statement mentioned “Air policing contributed to the protection of their airspace to intercept, and escorted two Russian bombers type TU-160 Blackjack.”

According to the statement, Norway first detected the bombers to the north and scrambled two F-16 fighters to intercept the Russian jets toward north of Scotland. Then, Britain’s Royal Air Force sent Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth as the Russia planes flew to the west of Shetland. RAF said the Russian jets did not enter British air space.

Two French Rafale fighter planes then followed the bombers as they skirted west of Ireland, followed by two other Rafale jets. Finally, Spain sent two F-18 fighters to intercept the TU-160 planes north of Bilbao.

Iceland also later noted that Blackjack bombers had flown too close to civil airliners on the same day.

These interceptions and escorts were conducted in close cooperation between the two NATO operation centers of the north and south and the national air operations center in Lyon Mont-Verdun, according to the statement.

The Russians have nicknamed the Blackhack “White Swan” because of anti-flash paint scheme and slender design. It is similar to the B-2 Spirit built for the United States. It is capable of supersonic speeds of up to 1,573 mph (Mach 2.05) and the first prototype flew in 1981.

In October and November last year, jets were scrambled from Lossiemouth in Scotland to intercept two Blackjack bombers.

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