Suffolk jets escort Russian planes

FIGHTER jets from an American base in Suffolk intercepted two Russian planes and escorted them back to international airspace in an incident which brought back memories of the Cold War.

FIGHTER jets from an American base in Suffolk intercepted two Russian planes and escorted them back to international airspace in an incident which brought back memories of the Cold War.

The F-15C Eagle aircraft from RAF Lakenheath intercepted the Russian TU-142 Bear F and Bear J planes while on a mission to Iceland.

The Russian aircraft entered Icelandic airspace, prompting the immediate launch of three 493rd Fighter Squadron F-15C air-superiority fighters and a tanker deployed to the U.S. Air Force's 85th Group at Keflavik in Iceland.

F-15C pilot Major Marcus Cade said: "This is the first time I have ever intercepted a Russian Bear bomber. Once you get into flow of the mission, it all felt surprisingly routine.


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"We were within 150 feet of the Bears; at that range, you see people in the aircraft, but that was about all. We showed them that we have the ability to intercept them at a time and place of our choosing – and that's what we did. The intercept was flawless."

The mission began as the U.S. Air Force 932nd Air Control Squadron received reports from Norway they had an unknown aircraft pass through their area and they were intercepting to get identification.

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The Russian planes were escorted by the U.S. jets for about 15 minutes, during which time the pilots took photographs and confirmed the identification of the aircraft.

The Americans stress the Russian planes were in no way hostile or threatening.

Major David Brien, chief of plans and programmes for the 85th Group, said: "We've had dialog and discussion with first the former Soviet Union and now Russia for a long time now. This is just something that happens periodically, where for whatever reason, they bring aircraft from their area to here just to see our response times. We went from a 12-hour to a one-hour alert status immediately."

The 493rd Fighter Squadron deployed March 5 in defence of NATO Air North and Iceland. Squadrons of U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy aircraft have defended Iceland and NATO Air North at Keflavik since the two countries signed a defence agreement in 1951.

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