First scramble of 2018 for Baltic Air Police

On Thursday, Jan 25, Royal Danish Air Force F-16 fighter jets, presently deployed to Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, were launched to conduct their first interception of the current rotation safeguarding NATO airspace in the Baltic region, NATO reported January 26 in a press release.

"In the morning of January 25, NATO radars picked up an air track that did not comply with international standard aviation rules as it was neither sending a transponder signal nor in radio contact with civilian air traffic control nor was a flight plan available. The track moved from mainland Russia to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad over international waters near NATO airspace," the release said.

"Consequently, two Royal Danish Air Force F-16 interceptor jets were tasked to fly to the area to identify the track, a Russian fighter aircraft. Upon successful completion of their mission the F-16s returned to Lithuania.  Missions like this are a standard occurrence especially in the Baltic Sea region. NATO jets are on alert 24/7 to respond to similar incidents. When aircraft are flying with their transponders off, and when they are not in contact with civilian Air Traffic Control they cause a risk to other air traffic because they do not feature on civilian radar systems. This is when NATO launches one of their Quick Reaction Alert interceptor planes. The NATO jets fly close to the unidentified plane and their transponder signal is picked up by the air controllers allowing them to take measures to prevent mishaps with civilian airliners."

NATO also released pictures of the interception, showing the fighter in question to be a Russian Su-34.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not have their own planes capable of carrying out such missions. When the three States joined NATO in 2004, NATO allies agreed to deploy their jets to the region on a rotational basis to ensure skies over the Baltic region are safeguarded.

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