ÄMARI, Estonia - Two Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets executed their first alert launch to respond to a Russian Federation Air Force aircraft that flew over the Baltic Sea on February 1, 2018 without transmitting a transponder symbol that identifies the plane on civilian air traffic controller screens.
Early Thursday afternoon a unidentified track was registered by NATO radars crossing the Baltic airspace over international waters. The Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany, ordered the Italian Eurofighter Typhoons that had launched for a training flight to go active, approach and identify the track. The pilots identified a Russian Federation Air Force An-26 transport aircraft. They flew alongside the transiting Russian plane and broadcast their transponder signal allowing civilian air traffic controllers to keep other air traffic clear of the area.
Since early January 2018, four Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft and a detachment of pilots, ground crew, maintainers, logisticians and controllers have been deployed at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, augmenting NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission. Together with the Royal Danish Air Force lead detachment at Siaullai, Lithuania, their task is to provide 24/7 fighter capabilities that can be launched by the CAOC at Uedem, Germany, in response to unidentified air tracks in the Baltic Region.
On January 25, 2018 the Italian Air Force detachment accomplished 100 flying hours during training flights over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This training activity is beneficial for both Italian pilots and Baltic military air traffic controllers to further improve skills and interoperability. It also enables them to work together seamlessly when the alarm sounds and NATO jets have to launch within minutes to safeguard the Allies' airspace.
Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office based on information provided by the Italian Air Force detachment at Ämari