NATO officials announced that the day prior its jets were scrambled 10 times in a mere six-hour time period in response to a "rare peak" in Russian aircraft activity across "several areas".
"NATO aircraft intercepted six different groups of Russian military aircraft near alliance airspace in less than six hours," the Brussels-based military alliance said in a statement of the intense period of Monday, which appears to have been confirmed in at least one photograph.
A NATO official told several major media outlets that that the Russian flights posed a potential "risk" to civilian aviation as they failed to transmit transponder codes as is normative in such crowded airspace.
As the BCC details NATO identified six groups of Russian planes in the following locations where NATO intercepts took place:
Norwegian F-16s scrambled as two Tu-95 Bears neared the Norwegian coast
The Russian planes then flew south over the North Sea prompting action from UK and Belgian air force planes
Two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers were later intercepted by the Norwegian air force
Allied planes also tracked three Russian planes over the Black Sea
A Russian maritime patrol plane was intercepted by Italian planes over the Baltic Sea near Kaliningrad.
The regions named constitute much of Russia's Western flank, which becomes more interesting given this admission which is buried in the very last paragraph of the full official NATO statement posted to the military command's website:
"The Russian aircraft intercepted on Monday never entered Alliance airspace..."
Moscow's relations with NATO have lately hit a low-point from past years, with the two sides not communicating at all, prompting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issuing a call last week for the reestablishment of the 'NATO-Russia Council' - which hasn't met since 2019. It acts as a military-to-military point of dialogue and 'deconfliction' hotline of sorts.
Busy week for Russian bombers, other military aircraft, and NATO interceptors over Europe. h/t @cencio4— Hans Kristensen (@nukestrat) March 31, 2021
Wonder what Rules of Engagement was violated by decision to wedge Italian Typhoon in between Russian Su-27 fighters. https://t.co/oJChsyNlID
As CNN reviews, intercept incidents between the two rivals have grown immensely since that time: "NATO aircraft scrambled more than 400 times in 2020 to intercept unknown aircraft according to the alliance."
CNN reports of NATO's accusations further that "About 90 percent were in response to flights by Russian aircraft. NATO says Russian flights often pose a risk to civilian air traffic over Europe because the Russians often fly without transmitting a transponder code indicating their position and altitude and do not file a flight plan or communicate with air traffic controllers."