Belgian, Danish F-16 NATO jets intercept Russian Tu-160 bombers, Su-27 fighters

A Belgian F-16 fighter aircraft escorting a Russian Tu-160 bomber over international waters in the Baltic Sea during the first intercept on 17 September of the Belgian detachment leading NATO Baltic Air Policing. Photo by Belgian Air Force

On 17 September 2019, Belgian Air Force F-16 fighter jets leading NATO’s Baltic Air Policing from Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania had their first scramble over the Baltic Sea.

NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem in Germany directed the Belgian jets to visually identify several aircraft close to Allied airspace. The aircraft identified were two Russian Tu-160 “Blackjack” bombers with two Su-27 “Flanker” fighter escorts flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.

Neither the Russian bombers nor the fighters were on a flight plan or in contact with civilian Air Traffic Control or transmitted their identification code.

Viewed from the cockpit of a Danish F-16 – two Russian fighter escorts in international airspace over the Baltic Sea on 17 September 2019. Photo courtesy Royal Danish Air Force

As the Russian aircraft continued their flight, Danish Royal Air Force jets currently assigned to NATO also tracked the aircraft.

Allied jets are on 24/7 standby to respond to any unidentified aircraft flying close to Allied airspace. Since 2004, NATO Allies have been taking turns to deploy their fighter aircraft to police and safeguard the skies over the Baltic Sea region.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

Preparations on a Danish F-16 fighter jet at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania. The Royal Danish Air Force detachment is augmenting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission safeguarding the skies over Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Photo courtesy Royal Danish Air Force
Bart Noëth: Since 1996, I have been working in the Belgian airline industry, from a weekend job as a cabin aircraft cleaner to a flight attendant. After the demise of Sabena - in 2001, I created a website called, originally a meeting place for plane spotters and aviation freaks. Since 2017, the website changed into a professional news site. Next to aviation, I love to travel, wine and dine and enjoy my time off(-line) with my girlfriend, friends and family. My favourite football squad is KV Mechelen, I am an Ironman 70.3 finisher and my ambition is to complete a full Ironman.
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