Another coot, another scramble

Russian Armed Forces sent another of its IL-20 Ilyushin military reconnaissance planes, known in aviation jargon as 'coots' near to Latvian airspace, prompting the NATO Baltic Air Police to rush them in what seems to be becoming like a regular interception operation late Thursday morning, tweeted the National Armed Forces (NBS).

This makes this the third scramble reported this week, as just Tuesday the NBS tweeted news of two separate identifications of this type of Russian air force plane by the BAP.

During the same time frame this week, Estonian media on Tuesday reported a 500-metre violation of its national airspace by a Russian IL-20, which crossed unauthorized and unannounced into skies over the territory around Saarema island, where Portuguese F-16 BAP jets scrambled from Emari Airbase to register the transgression.

Estonia handed Russia a diplomatic note Wednesday over the unusual incident.

Marko Mihkelson, the head of the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said the recent intrusion is different compared to the usual airspace violations, reports ERR.

He said on his social media site that the norm for airspace violations is intrusions, lasting under a minute, near Vaindloo Island in northern Estonia. Such violations result from an unsolved airspace issue where Russian air traffic control overlaps Estonian airspace.

“The reconnaissance aircraft might not have just gotten lost as Russian activity on and over the Baltic Sea has increased recently,” Mihkelson said.

When the IL-20, nudged back into neutral airspace by the Portuguese jets, changed course to the north to evade their visual contact, they were intercepted by Swedish Air Force fighters, who escorted the Russian plane back towards its presumed homeland base in Russia. According to allied reports, it had taken off from Kaliningrad and been intercepted first by Denmark's, then Sweden's, then the NATO jets in ping-pong fashion.

This is the sixth time this year such violations of the national airspace have been noted, the previous five having been over the island of Vaindloo, where the overlapping airspace traffic control has long been an issue of concern to aviation and defense authorities.

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