In the morning of 11 March 2020, NATO's CAOC at Uedem received an indication from the recognized air picture – an overview of all airborne activities in the skies over Europe – that Russian Federation Air Force Midas tanker aircraft escorted by two fighter aircraft had taken off and were flying around northern Norway in a southwesterly direction followed. The formation was followed by two Russian strategic Tu-142 Bear F martime patrol aircraft.
I commend all our women and men who are ready and determined to safeguard and protect our Alliance airspace
The NATO CAOC launched Norwegian Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) fighter aircraft out of Bodoe, Norway. Upon take off they identified and subsequently escorted the Russian planes which after being refueled off the Norwegian coast flew on southward and continued west of the United Kingdom and, subsequently, west of Ireland. Meanwhile the CAOC launched the Royal Air Force QRA Typhoons out of Lossiemouth and alerted an RAF tanker aircraft and a French airborne warning and control plane to support the mission.
The two Russian planes continued into the Gulf of Biscay where they were met by French and Spanish fighter aircraft. They turned around to fly back using the same route and were escorted by RAF and Norwegian fighters. The event ended in the late afternoon on 11 March and took place over international waters in the neighborhood of NATO Allies Norway, United Kingdom, France and Spain.
"I commend all our women and men involved in supporting the standing NATO Air Policing mission, a coordinated, professional and effective effort at all levels," said Allied Air Command Deputy Chief of Staff Brigadier General Andrew Hansen. "Together we are ready and determined to safeguard and protect our Alliance airspace," he added.
This event – routine in nature – showcased NATO's capabilities and responsiveness in a coordinated complex response to the Russian air activity. During the roughly 14-hour event the CAOC at Uedem controlled the collective mission involving Norwegian, British, French and Spanish fighter and support aircraft with support from the CAOC at Torrejon, Spain, and a French AWACS airborne control plane.
In a similar activity on Saturday, March 7, the two CAOCs had controlled a coordinated mission with Norwegian, British, French, Spanish and Portuguese fighters in response to a similar Russian air activity.
NATO Allied Air Command at Ramstein, Germany, works with all the Allies to safeguard the European airspace. Through its two CAOCs it integrates national Control and Reporting Centres and radar sites and launches fighter aircraft from more than two dozen fighter bases. All these component and assets are vigilant and responsive at all times and form part of the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System that protects the Allies 24/7/365