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NATO allies intercept 6 groups of Russian aircraft over Europe

NATO allies scrambled 10 times and intercepted six groups of Russian aircraft flying near alliance airspace Monday. Photo courtesy of NATO
NATO allies scrambled 10 times and intercepted six groups of Russian aircraft flying near alliance airspace Monday. Photo courtesy of NATO

March 30 (UPI) -- NATO fighter jets intercepted six different groups of Russian military aircraft Monday, the alliance said.

Jets from the alliance scrambled 10 times to shadow Russian bombers and fighters during "an unusual peak of flights" near NATO airspace over the North Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea, officials said in a press release.

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"Intercepting multiple groups of Russian aircraft demonstrates NATO forces' readiness and capability to guard Allied skies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year," Brig. Gen. Andrew Hansen, deputy chief of Staff Operations at Allied Air Command, Ramstein, Germany, said Tuesday in the release.

Norway, Turkey, Britain, Belgium, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria all participated in the scrambles, which took place over the course of less than 6 hours Monday.

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According to NATO, the Russian aircraft never entered alliance airspace and the interceptions were conducted in a safe and routine manner.

Norwegian F-16s intercepted two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying near Norway's coast.

The Bear bombers continued to fly south over the North Sea, according to NATO, prompting Britain and Belgium to scramble Typhoon and F-16 fighters, respectively.

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Later on, Norwegian F-16s intercepted two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers over international waters.

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NATO radars also detected three Russian aircraft near Allied airspace over the Black Sea -- prompting Turkish, Romanian and Bulgarian fighter aircraft to track the Russian planes until they left the area.

NATO also reports that Italian fighter aircraft intercepted a Russian II 38 maritime patrol aircraft over the Baltic Sea, then escorted it out of the area.

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"The men and women at NATO's two Combined Air Operations Centres in Uedem, Germany, and Torrejón, Spain, quickly responded to unidentified aircraft near the Alliance's borders by launching fighters from Norway, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey to investigate and protect allied airspace," Hansen said.

Last week two Tu-160 heavy bombers flew a 6,000-mile route from western Russia included the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and Norway's coast -- regions where NATO is conducting Bomber Task Force exercises with participation from U.S. Air Force crews.

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