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 Dec 28 2020

NATO Intercepts Hundreds of Russian Military Jets in 2020

RAMSTEIN, Germany - NATO air forces across Europe scrambled more than 400 times in 2020 to intercept unknown aircraft approaching Alliance airspace. Almost 90 percent of these missions - around 350 - were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft. 

This is a moderate increase from 2019. Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate with air traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to civilian airliners. 

We are always vigilant - Air Policing is an important way in which NATO provides security for our members text

“In recent years, we have seen an increased level of Russian military air activity close to the Alliance’s borders,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu. “We are always vigilant. NATO fighter jets are on duty around the clock, ready to scramble in case of suspicious or unannounced flights near the airspace of our Allies. Air policing is an important way in which NATO provides security for our members,” she said.

Across Europe, some 40 air surveillance radars  and  reporting   hubs,  and  about  60

NATO jets are on duty 24/7 to serve as a quick-response force for aircraft who fall into distress or defy international flying rules near Alliance airspace.NATO has operated a Baltic Air Policing mission for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania since the three countries joined the Alliance in 2004. NATO also provides Air Policing coverage for Allies in the Western Balkans who do not have fighter jets of their own: Albania, Slovenia, and Montenegro. Talks are also underway to extend Air Policing coverage to North Macedonia. Allies have also helped to police the skies of Romania, Bulgaria and Iceland in 2020.

NATO jets respond to unannounced military flights, as well as to civilian aircraft losing communication with air traffic controllers for any reason, which could range from technical problems to hijacking. NATO has two air operations centres – one in Germany, covering northern Europe, and one in Spain covering the south – which monitor all air movements across Europe.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

A Belgian F-16 escorting a Russian airlifter over the Baltic Sea in April 2020. Photo courtesy Belgian Air Force.
A German Eurofighter with two Russian fighter aircraft over the Baltic Sea off the Estonian coast in October 2020. Photo courtesy German Air Force.
A Royal Air Force ´Typhoon, working in concert with other Allies an March 11, escorts a Russian Maritime Patrol Aircraft over the North Sea. Photo courtesy Royal Air Force.
A Spanish F-18 fighter flying alongside a Russian military jet airliner over the Baltic Sea in May 2020. Photo courtesy Spanish Air Force---.

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