On 9th February, two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers flew over international waters west of the UK and approached 100km from the French coast without ever penetrating UK or French airspace. They were intercepted and escorted at various points by RAF, French AF and Spanish AF fighters throughout their flight.
The alert was given at 7:00 am by the NATO Operations Center at Uedem (Germany), which then contacted the National Center for Flight Operations in Lyon Mont-Verdun. Six Russian airplanes were flying near the Norwegian coastline, and were quickly taken into account by the Norwegian Operational Readiness Force.
Four of the six airplanes then headed back to Russia, while the two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers continued their flight towards the UK. They were met and accompanied by Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons.
The Typhoons first took off from RAF Lossiemouth on a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA). They were later joined by a Voyager refuelling tanker from RAF Brize Norton. As the bombers flew south, further Typhoons scrambled from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
After flying around the west of Ireland, the two Russian planes headed for Brittany.
At 7:30 am, the French authorities (HADA) decided to deploy an E-3F (AWACS) aircraft to track the progress of the Russian bombers and also positioned a C-135 tanker aircraft in the area at about 11:00.
Around 12:30, as the two Russian bombers approached the French coasts, the HADA scrambled two Mirage 2000-5s of the Lorient QRA detachment to intercept and escort them. A Rafale of the Saint Dizier QRA detachment also joined the patrol from eastern France, before the interception, which took place at around 13h.
Flying south towards Spain, the patrol accompanied the Russian aircraft until they were met by Spanish Air Force F-18 fighters, before the Russian bombers turned around and began their return journey.
The French interception and escort missions were commanded by the National Centre for Flight Operations in Lyon Mont-Verdun, in close collaboration with NATO's two operating centres in the north (Uedem) and the south (Torrejón).
During the mission, the French Air Force deployed two Rafales, two Mirage 2000-5s, a C-135 refueling aircraft and an E-3F AWACS.