Russian bombers intercepted by Belgian jets above Netherlands

Belgian F16 jets intercept two Russian TU-160 Blackjack bombers above the North Sea, 15 Jan 2018
Belgian F16 jets intercept two Russian TU-160 Blackjack bombers above the North Sea, 15 Jan 2018Photo: @BeAirForce / Twitter

Belgian F-16 jets intercepted two Russian bombers over the North Sea on Monday just before the Russian planes entered Dutch airspace, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense confirmed to The Russian bombers were heading towards the United Kingdom, AD reports.

The planes were intercepted around 11:50 a.m., according to AD. The Belgian Air Force received an instruction from the command center in Udem, Germany to intercept the two Russian military aircraft above the North Sea. The two Belgian jets took of from the air base in Florennes and were directed by the Dutch Air Operations Control Station in Nieuw-Milligen. 

The Belgian pilots identified the Russian aircrafts as Toepolev TU-160s, so-called 'Blackjack' bombers. At the time the bombers were in NATO air space above the North Sea that fall under Dutch responsibility, the Belgian Air Force said on Twitter. The bombers were intercepted and transferred to the British Air Force. British Typhoons escorted the two Russian planes away, according to AD.

The Belgian F-16's landed in Leeuwarden after this intervention. They refueled and returned to their home base in Florennes. 

Since January 1st, 2017, the Netherlands has been working with Belgium and Luxembourg to protect the Benelux airspace through the Quick Reaction Alert. The Netherlands and Belgium take turns to protect the Benelux air space. In principle this duty switches every four months. But as Belgian F-16s took part in the fight against terrorist organization ISIS in the Middle East for longer last year, the Dutch Air Force was responsible for the QRA for eight months instead of four. 

Early this month the Dutch F-16s replaced Belgian jets in in Jordan to fight the terrorist organization, and last week responsibility for the Quick Reaction Alert transferred from the Netherlands to Belgium.