The Russian planes carrying bombs under their wings were taking few chances. The Belgian vessel is a command and logistical supply ship and like the other NATO minehunters in the area isn't equipped to provide a response to hostile aircraft. Commentators suggest this may have motivated the Russians to fly the bombers with dirty wings, a defence term used to indicate the planes were carrying bombs.
The incident could have escalated. The Belgian navy frigate Louise Marie was in the Baltic at the time involved in an anti-air defence operation. This operation was aborted to allow Swedish fighter jets that were supposed to feign an attack on the Louise Marie to intercept the Russian bombers.
Kristof van Belleghem, the captain of the Louise Marie, says the Russians are acting in a more assertive manner: "It's getting more and more frequent. We see that the Russians are adopting an assertive position vis-a-vis of our units. We are getting used to it, but should be careful to avoid misunderstandings, accidents and worse."
Thursday's incident follows the events of Wednesday when a Russian submarine surfaced in the vicinity of the Godetia to take photos. Insiders say this is an unusual event as submarines usually prefer to operate undetected.