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Apr 21 2021

NATO fighter jets intercept Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea

RAMSTEIN, Germany - NATO scrambled fighter jets from bases in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland to track and intercept Russian fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on April 20.  

NATO radars tracked unidentified aircraft over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday morning. In response, NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany, launched allied fighter aircraft in the Baltic region to intercept and identify the approaching aircraft. Some of the aircraft tracks were not identifiable by transponder signal and no flight plan had been filed. This may pose a flight safety hazard because civilian Air Traffic Control may not be able to track them and de-conflict with civilian air traffic.

The event demonstrates NATO’s vigilance and responsiveness to air incidents and the collective effort of our Allies to keep the airspace safe for all its users

“Our teams deployed in support of Baltic Air Policing stand ready to intercept any perceived threat to Allied airspace,” said Brigadier General Andrew Hansen, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations. “The Alliance routinely practises intercepts for this exact reason and has built the necessary muscle memory to accomplish this at a moment’s notice.”

The CAOC launched Italian and German Eurofighter aircraft from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission in Lithuania and Estonia, respectively (archive photos courtesy Italian and German Air Force), and Polish Air Force F-16s fighters from Poznan Air Base (Archive photo by Sebastien Raffin). The Royal Danish Air Force national air operations centre deployed their F-16s from Skrydstrup Air Base (Archive photo courtesy Danish Air Force).

Two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, escorted by Su-27 and Su-35 fighter aircraft were flying over the Baltic Sea from mainland Russia, where they operated with a Russian A-50 Mainstay airborne warning and control plane that was also escorted by fighters. The bombers stayed in international airspace above the Baltic Sea and returned to mainland Russia after roughly three hours.

The group of Russian military aircraft operating over international waters in the Baltic Sea seen from the NATO pilots who conducted professional identification and escort missions on April 20. Photos courtesy German Air Force (1) and Italian Air Force (2).

In response, the CAOC launched German and Italian fighter aircraft from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia and Lithuania, respectively, and Polish Air Force F-16s fighters from Poznan Air Base. The Royal Danish Air Force national air operations centre deployed their F-16s from Skrydstrup Air Base to meet the Russian aircraft.

“The event demonstrates NATO’s vigilance and responsiveness to air incidents and the collective effort of our Allies to keep the airspace safe for all its users,” added General Hansen.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

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