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Dutch F-16s scramble to intercept Russian bombers

March 21, 2013 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Royal Netherlands Air Force scrambled F-16s today to escort two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 'Bear' bombers over the North Sea. The jets were launched from Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) at Leeuwarden AB.

RNlAF F-16AM #J-624 from 313 sqn is returning to base after a QRA-mission with live weaponry on October 5th, 2005. [Photo by Mike Schoenmaker]

It is fairly common for Russian bombers to enter NATO airspace without making any radio contact and as usual it was unclear what they were up to.

Standard procedures call for an escort of all non-NATO aircrat like these Bears. Initially German jet fighters flew along with them until they passed through an area in the North Sea for which the Netherlands is responsible at which point they were handed over to the Dutch F-16s. Later on the British Air Force took over with two Typhoons.

The QRA was activated upon request of the Air Operations Control Station Nieuw Milligen (AOCS NM). This happens whenever a plane flies in Dutch airspace without previously having filed a flight plan and without identifying themselves.

AOCS NM is the air traffic control center for all military air traffic in the Netherlands, as well as the center for Air Battle Management, Air Surveillance, Fighter and SAM Control, and Alerting. It is using Dutch Mil as its callsign for air traffic control services, and Bandbox as a callsign for the military Control and Reporting Centre (CRC).

The previous interception of Tu-95 by Dutch F-16s dates from September 11th 2012.

Additional images:

RNlAF F-16AM #J-876 from 311 sqn is returning after a QRA-mission with live weaponry on October 5th, 2005. [Photo by Mike Schoenmaker]

RNoAF 331/332 Skv MAS Bodo Bear Hunters [Rob Loonstra collection]

RNlAF F-16A block 1 #J-218 and block 5 #J-229 are coming in for landing at Leeuwarden AB on April 1st, 1982 after a QRA. [ photo by Joop de Groot]