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A Russian
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31 interceptor

An interceptor is a fighter aircraft that specializes in tracking, repelling, and destroying unknown or enemy aircraft .


In peacetime

Typhoon of the RAF escorts a Tu-95 over the North Sea (2008)
F / A-18C J-5018 armed with Sidewinder and AMRAAMs, carries an additional tank with a painted emergency frequency

In peacetime, there are alarm groups (two planes) on air force bases in constant readiness in order to be able to react quickly to suddenly occurring potential threats to the airspace (today less from enemy military aircraft than from terrorists and hijackers ). Accompanying flights of damaged aircraft for landing or to provide support with technical problems are also part of their area of ​​responsibility. Their equipment consists of a mixed armament of radar-guided air-to-air missiles of medium range, heat-seeking IR missiles for short distances and external tanks with additional fuel to reach their destination as quickly as possible and suspicious aircraft, or military aircraft from a foreign nation, either from their own to be able to escort sovereign airspace or until landing at an airport . In the event of a fight, the external tanks are thrown off to make the hunters more agile.

In most countries, orders to use weapons in peacetime are reserved for the defense minister or a high-ranking military, who, if the worst comes to the worst, are briefed on the advancement of the interceptors and the situation.


In Germany , according to the Aviation Security Act , these were the Federal Minister of Defense or, in the case of substitution, the member of the Federal Government authorized to represent him in consultation with the Federal Minister of the Interior (Section 13 Aviation Security Act). However, they were not allowed to order a passenger aircraft to be shot down, as the inevitable killing of the flight passengers to rescue other people on the ground contradicts the Basic Law ( prohibition of quantification ). In April 2013, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that it was not the Defense Minister but only the German Federal Government who could decide in urgent cases and declared the corresponding provision of the Aviation Security Act to be null and void.

The German Air Force can have aircraft in the air no later than 15 minutes after an alert. For this purpose, two alarm groups equipped with Eurofighter Typhoon are stationed at the Tactical Air Force Squadron 74 in Neuburg an der Donau (southern part of Germany to the Main ) and at the Tactical Air Force Group "Richthofen" in Wittmund ( East Friesland ) (northern part of Germany). If necessary, the Tactical Air Force Wing 73 "Steinhoff" is also available, especially for the eastern airspace. In the event of an actual alarm, they are deployed from the Bundeswehr air situation center in Kalkar , where all information comes together. In Germany, interceptors actually have to mount around once a week because there are discrepancies in the air situation, for example unreported flight movements or unplanned course deviations.


The Austrian Armed Forces have two Eurofighters on standby in Zeltweg .

Switzerland and Liechtenstein

The Swiss Air Force operates F-5E , F-5F, F / A-18C and F / A-18D aircraft from different bases, mostly from Payerne or Meiringen . These operations are managed by the EZ-LUV ( Operations Center Air Defense) at the Dübendorf military airfield . At major events with closed airspace, such as Euro 2008 or the WEF , the Minister of Defense or the Air Force commander issues the order to kill. In contrast to Germany, in Switzerland the fighter jet pilot is also allowed to shoot down a civil aircraft with passengers; this is covered by the " Ordinance on Maintaining Air Sovereignty " as an emergency and self-defense. In Switzerland, the interceptors are also used in peacetime for so-called live missions, in which state aircraft that are in Swiss or Liechtenstein airspace are routinely intercepted (without prior indication of an irregularity) and the aircraft type, nation, registration and any other aircraft are visually intercepted Special features and armament are checked. On average there are around 280 such live missions per year (see table ). The interceptors are also used in Switzerland to identify aircraft that have violated an air traffic rule. These inserts are such. B. when an alarm is started because of bomb threats, kidnappings, etc. are referred to as hot missions and occur on average around 20 times a year.

In wartime

In times of war, the task of the interceptor changes to the effect that they should fight approaching enemy bombers and their escort fighters before they can reach their destination and cause damage. However, most interceptors can also take on offensive tasks and attack foreign interceptors as well as provide escort for bombers, transporters, AWACS , etc.

List of interceptors

The Convair F-106 , a former U.S. Air Force interceptor

In terms of construction, one can distinguish two basic types among interceptors:

  • Dedicated hunters who are only optimized for the interceptor role (e.g. the BAC "Lightning" ) and above all achieve high speeds and very good climbing ability, but are hardly usable for other tasks due to space and weight reasons, and
  • Combined fighters who, in addition to their role as interceptors, also offer a platform for attacks on ground targets (e.g. General Dynamics F-16 , McDonnell Douglas F / A-18 , Eurofighter Typhoon ).

Thanks to advances in aircraft technology and aerodynamics , it is now possible to build an aircraft that is good in both areas of activity without having to compromise on performance, so that today almost only the latter types and hardly any pure interceptors are built.

Dedicated interceptors

A US Air Force Lockheed YF-12
Sukhoi Su-15

Interceptor and air superiority fighters

Interceptors and multi-purpose fighter-bombers

See also

Web links

Commons : Interceptor  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: interceptor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Police du ciel, première intervention le week-end!
  2. Only the federal government is allowed to deploy the Bundeswehr inside
  3. Art. 9 Use of weapons when air traffic is not restricted