The 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed from RAF Lakenheath have had some close encounters with the Russian fighters near the Baltics.
The U.S. Air Force will complete its fifth rotation as the lead nation for the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission on Jan. 8, 2018. On Jan. 5, videos documenting their efforts during their four-month deployment were publicly released.
In particular, the videos capture previously unreleased footage of RAF Lakenheath F-15s conducting “safe and standard intercepts of Russian Federation aircraft as part of the NATO peacetime air policing mission.”
Along with footage showing the U.S. Air Force F-15 pilots scramble during an exercise during the Baltic Regional Training Event at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, back in April 2014, the video compilation shows two encounters with the Russian Navy Su-30 Flankers.
The first one occurred on Nov. 23, and was initiated because the Russian aircraft did not broadcast the appropriate codes required by air traffic control and had no flight plan on file. The second one shows two Russian Navy Su-30s intercepted on Dec. 13, 2017. The second intercept was initiated for the same reasons: the Russian aircraft did not broadcast the appropriate codes required by air traffic control and had no flight plan on file.
The video compilation shows tw encounter on November 23 and another on December 13. According to descriptions posted by the military, both incidents involved two Russian fighters in international airspace near the Baltics. In both encounters, the F-15s were scrambled because the Russians did not broadcast the codes required by air traffic control and did not file a flight plan, the Air Force said.
“Intercepts are a regular occurrence, and U.S. Air Force pilots routinely conduct them in a safe and professional manner,” Lt. Col. Cody Blake, commander of the 493rd says in an interview included in the compilation. “Pilots from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron executed the intercept professionally and operated in international airspace in accordance with all relevant international flight regulations and safety standards.”
The Russian reaction to the video came on Saturday. According to the state-run RT media outlet, the Russian Ministry of Defense acknowledged that NATO F-15 jets had “approached” Su-30 fighter jets in two separate incidents – on November 23 and December 13 – near the Baltics, but said “the route of Russian fighter jets was agreed with the air logistics control units and was carried out in strict compliance with the international rules.” In both instances, F-15 fighters “approached at a safe distance, after which they changed course and flew away,” the statement added.
H/T Lasse Holmstrom for the heads-up