Baltic air police intercept Russian bombers

Belgian pilots who recently took over patrols as part of NATO's Baltic air policing mission got an early test on 17 September 2019, when their F-16 fighter jets based at Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania had their first scramble over the Baltic Sea.

"NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem in Germany directed the Belgian jets to visually identify several aircraft close to Allied airspace. The aircraft identified were two Russian Tu-160 bombers with fighter escorts flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea," NATO said in account of the incident.

"Neither the Russian bombers nor the fighters were on a flight plan or in contact with civilian Air Traffic Control or transmitted their identification code. As the Russian aircraft continued their flight, Danish Royal Air Force jets currently assigned to NATO also tracked the aircraft," NATO said.

Pictures of the interception were obtained by both the Belgian and Danish jets.

Since 2004, NATO Allies have been taking turns to deploy their fighter aircraft to police and safeguard the skies over the Baltic Sea region as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania lack suitable aircraft of their own. At present, the Belgian Air Force F-16 fighters are leading the mission with augmenting Danish F-16 fighter aircraft based out of Siauliai, Lithuania and Czech Air Force JAS-39s based at Ämari, Estonia.

Coincidentally, NATO Allied Air Command’s third Ramstein Alloy training event had been announced as taking place 17 and 18 September, with Allied and Partner air and ground crews honing interoperability, command and control and aerial skills. The tri-annual event uses training scenarios to further enhance Air Policing procedures and Allied-Partner relationships using NATO’s Baltic Air Policing assets and regional air forces.

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