Belgian jets into Baltic action straight away

F-16 jets of the Belgian Air Force got an early scramble when they were called to conduct an intercept over the Baltic Sea within hours of taking over Baltic Air Policing duties in Ämari, Estonia on September 5.

Pictures released on the official Belgian Air Force twitter account showed them intercepting Russian Su-27s.

According to an account by NATO: " Just after taking over the augmenting role for NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Belgian F-16 fighter jets were scrambled by Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem, Germany, for the first time to respond to an air incident in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. On the afternoon of September 5, 2017, a NATO radar picked up two Russian Federation Air Force fighter jets leaving Kaliningrad airspace heading north in international airspace. The military aircraft did not communicate their identity and were not in contact with civilian Air Traffic Control agencies. In line with standard procedures, the Belgian F-16s then took to the skies to identify the Russian Federation Air Force Su-27 jets, which subsequently joined up with a Russian Il-76 heavy cargo aircraft. All Russian aircraft returned to Kaliningrad and the Belgian F-16 jets safely landed at Ämari Air Base. "

At present the Baltic Air Policing mission is led by United States Air Force F-15 fighters deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania, and the Belgian F-16s in Ämari, Estonia. Belgium was in fact the first NATO ally to participate in the Baltic Air Policing mission, which began in 2004 due to the fact that none of the Baltic states have military jets of their own.

The current rotation is the seventh time Belgian jets have guarded Baltic skies.

As Russia continues to build up its forces ahead of the much-touted ZAPAD 2017 exercises taking place along its western borders, more interceptions are likely in coming days.

 

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