NATO Baltic Air Policing mission is quite busy these days….
According to the Latvian military, on Oct. 28, the German Air Force Eurofighter jets on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at Amari, Estonia, to provide NATO Baltic Air Policing were scrambled to intercept seven Russian Air Force planes flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.
The German interceptors identified the Russian planes as a large package, made of attack planes and escort, which included 2x MiG-31 Foxhound, 2x Su-34 Fullback, 1x Su-27 Flanker and 2x Su-24 Fencer jets.
Regardless to whether the Russian aircraft were involved in one of the frequent training missions in the Baltics or were commuting to/from the Russian airfield in Kaliningrad oblast, the package on Oct 28 represents one of the largest “formations” intercepted by NATO fighter planes during the last couple of years.
Usually, close encounters involve Russian, Swedish or U.S. spyplanes intercepted before (or after) violating sovereign airspaces. Sometimes, scrambles are required to greet Moscow’s Tu-22 or Tu-95 bombers on long-range training patrols or strike packages involved in (alleged) simulated air strikes on one of North Europe’s states (usually, Sweden).
Anyway, Russian Air Force missions in the Baltic area have surged, to such an extent NATO presence has quadrupled in the last year: from one nation providing four aircraft in QRA at one base in Lithuania (Šiauliai), to four nations (currently Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Canada) at two airbases (the second being Amari, in Estonia).
Image credit: Eurofighter – Geoffrey Lee, Planefocus Ltd