Busy end to September for NATO's Baltic Air Police

Last week was a busy one for NATO's Baltic Air Policing mision. Between September 23-29 NATO fighter aircraft carried out eight alert scrambles to identify and escort aircraft in the airspace over the Baltic Sea, according to information published by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense.

On September 23 NATO fighter aircraft intercepted two SU-27B and one AN-72 aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea from Kaliningrad to the mainland of the Russian Federation. The An-72 had a flight plan, its onboard transponder was on, the crew maintained radio communication with the regional air traffic control centre. Neither of the SU-27Bs had flight plans, working radio transponder or kept radio communication, the Ministry said.

On the same scramble the fighter jets intercepted one SU-34 and one AN-26 of the Russian Federation flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad. The An-26 had no flight plan but its onboard transponder was on and the crew maintained radio communication. The SU-34 had no flight plan, did not use the onboard transponder and did not maintain radio communication with the regional air traffic control centre. The SU-34 also violated Estonia’s, and therefore NATO's airspace.

On September 24 NATO fighter aircraft intercepted one SU-27 of the Russian Federation in international airspace, the aircraft was flying from and to a location in Kaliningrad without the flight plan, without using its onboard transponder, and without keeping radio communication with the regional air traffic control centre.

On September 24 NATO air policing aircraft intercepted one TU-214 of the Russian Federation in international Airspace over the Baltic Sea, flying from and to a location in mainland Russia, according to a flight plan, using its onboard transponder, maintaining radio communication.

Variety was provided on September 25 when NATO air policing fighter aircraft intercepted a civilian BOEING 737 in Lithuanian airspace, en route from Krakow to Helsinki – it did not keep the radio contact because of a communications equipment failure, the aircraft was flying according to a pre-filed flight plan and its onboard transponder was on. NATO fighter jets quit escorting the aircraft when the failure was fixed and the aircraft proceeded its route.

"The NATO aircraft responded to this case because its matches the mission definition – according to the procedure in force, the air force detachment on duty is obliged to scramble if an aircraft enters or is in the airspace of the Baltic states and does not contact the regional air traffic control centre, in order to identify and escort the aircraft and thus to ensure flight safety for other aircraft in the region," said the Ministry.

On September 25 NATO fighter aircraft intercepted one IL-76 of the Russian Federation flying in in international airspace over the Baltic Sea from Kaliningrad to mainland Russia, two SU-27s escorting the IL-76 from Kaliningrad and two more SU-27s that took off to meet the IL-76 from the mainland. The IL-76 had a pre-filed flight plan, used its onboard transponder, and kept the radio communication. None of the SU-27s had flight plans, used their onboard transponders or kept the radio communication.

Also on September 25 aircraft conducting the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states intercepted one IL-18 of the Russian Federation flying from Kaliningrad to mainland Russia in international airspace over the Baltic Sea according to a flight plan, using its onboard transponder, maintaining the radio communication. NATO fighter jets also intercepted one Tu-134 of the Russian Federation flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad according to a flight plan, with its onboard transponder on, maintaining radio communication with the regional air traffic control centre.

On September 26 NATO air policing fighters intercepted one IL-20 of the Russian Federation in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. The aircraft was flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad according to a flight plan, without using its onboard transponder, maintaining radio communication.

On September 27 NATO air policing fighter aircraft intercepted one IL-20 and two SU-27 of the Russian Federation, flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea from and to a location in Kaliningrad, without the flight plans, without using their onboard transponders, and without maintaining the radio communication.

Since September, Belgian, Czech and Danish fighter aircraft have responsibility for patrolling the skies over the three Baltic countries as part of NATO’s air policing mission.

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