RAMSTEIN, Germany –Loss of communications (COMLOSS) of civilian airliners with civilian air traffic controllers is the main reason for the Alliance to launch alert fighter aircraft. The vast majority of these incidences are caused by human error.
In 2018, Allied Air Command via the Combined Air Operation Centres received more than 900 reports from the Nations' about incidents where radio communications between a civilian airliner and civilian air traffic controllers had been lost. This causes a risk to other airliners because controllers are unable to control the COMLOSS aircraft and ensure secure flight operations. In almost one in ten of these incidents, Allied fighter aircraft are launched under NATO Air Policing procedures to fly up to the COMLOSS aircraft to verify the situation and visually provide instructions to the pilot to re-establish radio communications with the responsible air traffic controller.
"In February 2017, an Indian Boeing 777 on its way from Mumbai to London went COMLOSS over the Czech Republic and flew on into Germany for almost an hour without communications with air traffic controllers," says French Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Marie-Paule Verdier, an officer with the Operations Centre at Allied Air Command who coordinates joint NATO-EUROCONTROL action in an established COMLOSS task force. "The incidents caused NATO to change the alert posture for some of their fighter jets and eventually resulted in the launch of two German Eurofighters," she adds.