Tag Archives: Baltic Air Policing

Amid raising tension with Russia NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft visit eastern Europe

After Russia moved nuclear-capable missiles to NATO’s doorstep, NATO surveillance planes make cameo visit to Eastern Europe. And celebrate 1,000 missions.

On Oct. 11, a NATO E-3A AWACS visited Amari airbase, Estonia. Two days later another E-3 flew to  Siauliai, Lithuania: symbolic moves, that shows the alliance’s commitment to maintaining a persistent presence in Eastern Europe, where Russia has recently deployed nuclear-capable missiles.

The visit to Siauliai airbase, in Lithuania, main operating base of NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission was preceded by a presentation of the NATO E-3 AWACS component E-3A at the 1st Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force in Warsaw. A visit that marked the surveillance plane’s 1,000th operational flight at NATO’s eastern flank since the beginning of Ukraine crisis.

The Boeing surveillance aircraft, one of the 16 E-3A AWACS planes based at Geilenkirchen, in Germany, was welcome to Warsaw by F-16 and MiG-29 jet fighters from the 31 and 23 Airbases of the Polish Air Force.

nato-e-3-top

Besides the Director of the Arms Policy Department, Col. Karol Dymanowski, the E-3 visit to Poland was the opportunity to celebrate the 1,000 sorties of the NATO’s primary Airborne Early Warning & Control platform in eastern Europe with a meeting attended by Deputy Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, Div. Gen. Jan Śliwka, commander of the Geilenkirchen NATO E-3A Component Brig. Gen. Karsten Stoye, along with the crew of the AWACS aircraft.

Interestingly, 5 members of the multinational aircrew were Polish.

E-3A Sentry aircraft have been operating inside the Polish airspace since the 2000. Once Poland joined the NAPMO (NATO Early Warning and Control Program Management Organization) program, along with 15 other countries, Warsaw acquired a right to use the fleet of the 17 AWACS platforms that remain at the NATO’s disposal. Besides Geilenkirchen, the jets are also authorized to use the Polish airbases, such as the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base which is visited by them quite frequently.

nato-e-3-side

AWACS airframes were involved in operations over Poland for the first time during the Fruit Fly/Eagle Talon exercise back in 2006, which was the first exercise with the participation of Sentry, following the acquisition of the F-16 Block 52+ jets, ten years ago On the other hand, the Geilenkirchen-based aircraft also provide support in organization of mass events, such as the Euro Football Cup organized back in 2012, or the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

This year, E-3A component participated in and supported the ANAKONDA-16 exercise, NATO Summit in Warsaw and the World Youth Day, as well as the Baltic Air Policing operation. According to the release issued by the Polish MoD, the Geilenkirchen component has also been closely cooperating with the Polish fighter pilots of the 1st and 2nd Tactical Aviation Wings, since 2015.

The operations undertaken by the airborne radar are also tied to a number of NATO initiatives, including the aforementioned BAP mission as well as the rotational presence of the NATO forces in the region, within the framework of the Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The E-3A airborne radar is available to the member states during the crisis, as well as during the exercises concerning the IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) or other significant allied training initiatives.

nato-e-3-takeoff

Image credit: Foto Poork’s Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

 

Here are the Russian planes (including a rare special mission aircraft) intercepted by the Belgian F-16s over the Baltics

An-12PPS special mission aircraft among those met by the Belgian Air Force “Vipers” during their BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) rotation.

The images in this post were taken by the Belgian Air Force during their latest rotation of support to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission.

F-16 vs Su-27

Flying out of Amari Air Base, Estonia, the Belgian F-16 jets augmented the Lead Nation Spain’s Eurofighter Typhoon jets from January to April 2016.

BAF in BAP 3

BAF in BAP 2

The aircraft were often launched to intercept and escort Russian planes flying over the Baltics. Among them, Su-27 Flanker, Tu-134AK, Il-76, An-72 and also an An-12PPS.

Il-76 + F-16

The An-12PPS “Cub-D” is a jamming variant of the Antonov medium military transport.

According to “Russia’s Warplanes, Volume 1” by Piotr Butowski published by Harpia Publishing, one of the most authoritative sources on Russian-made military aircraft and helicopters today and set to become the standard reference work on the subject, the Russian Air Force operates several standoff ECM aircraft based on the standard An-12 airframe. Their task is to provide jamming cover to formation of transport aircraft carrying airborne troops by disguising the heading and composition of the formation during assault missions behind the front line.

Actually, the RF-90787 “19 Red” depicted in the photos taken by the BAF pilots lacks the most interesting equipment carried by the few An-12PPS aircraft: the Siren-D active jammer, usually mounted in four cigar-shaped pods, two under the forward fuselage and one on each side of the tailfin base. Still, it features another Cub-D’s distinctive feature: the SPS-100 Rezeda self-protection jammer built into the aircraft’s tail in lieu of the tail gunner’s turret.

Indeed, the aircraft is actually a former An-12PPS that was converted to the transport role back in 2001. Still, it’s a pretty rare bird!

BAF in BAP

According to “Russia’s Warplanes, Volume 1” only a few such aircraft are currently in Russian Air Force service at Orenburg and Akhtubinsk.

An-12PPS with F-16

Image credit: BAF

 

Russian Su-27 interceptor performs Top Gun stunt over U.S. spyplane

An “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept over the Baltic Sea.

On April 14, a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent electronic intelligence gathering aircraft flying a routine mission (in international airspace) over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 in “an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, U.S. European Command spokesman told the CNN.

According to EUCOM, the Flanker began the barrel roll from the left side of the U.S. RC-135 and went over the top of it to end on the right side of the aircraft, an aggressive maneuver (not compliant with the international standards) that brought the Russian jet dangerously close to colliding with the Combat Sent.

The episode comes few days after Russian Su-24s performed several low passes over a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea, and it’s only the last in a long series of tense close encounters between American spyplanes and Russian fighters in the skies across the world.

On Jan. 25, 2016 a U.S. RC-135 intelligence gathering jet was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet over Black Sea: during the interception, the Su-27 made an aggressive turn that disturbed the controllability of the RC-135.

On Apr. 7, 2015 another Su-27 flew within 20 feet of an RC-135U, over the Baltic Sea.

On Apr. 23, 2015 a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent performing a routine surveillance mission in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, some 60 miles off eastern Russia was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that crossed the route of the U.S. aircraft putting itself within 100 feet of the Combat Sent.

Actually, some “reckless” intercepts on U.S. spyplanes have been conducted by Chinese pilots as well.

In 2014, a Chinese Flanker made a barrel roll over a U.S. Navy P-8 maritime surveillance plane 135 miles east of Hainan Island, a spot of a far more dangerous close encounter of another U.S. electronic surveillance plane with the Chinese Navy back in 2001.

On Apr. 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E with the VQ-1, flying an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) mission in international airspace 64 miles southeast of the island of Hainan was intercepted by two PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) J-8 fighters.

One of the J-8s piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, made two close passes to the EP-3 before colliding with the spyplane on the third pass. As a consequence, the J-8 broke into two pieces and crashed into the sea causing the death of the pilot, whereas the EP-3, severely damaged, performed an unauthorized landing at China’s Lingshui airfield.

The 24 crew members (21 men and three women), that destroyed all (or at least most of ) the sensitive items and data on board the aircraft, were detained by Chinese authorities until Apr. 11.

Anyway, not only have U.S. aircraft been harassed during intercept missions. Here are just a few examples.

On Sept. 13, 1987, a RNoAF P-3B had a mid-air collision in similar circumstances with a Soviet Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker over the Barents Sea.

In Apr. 2012, whilst flying over the Barents Sea on a routine mission, a Norwegian P-3 Orion almost collided with a Russian Air Force Mig-31 Foxhound that had intercepted the patrol aircraft.

On Jul. 16, 2014, between Gotland and Latvia, a Russian Su-27 Flanker, armed with 6 air-to-air missiles, intercepted one of the two Swedish ELINT jet, and flew as close as 10,7 meters of the spyplane.

Top image: not an actual photo but a composition we made using Wiki images

 

Air-to-Air with the Hungarian Gripens involved in the Baltic Air Policing Operation

Up close and personal with the HuAF Gripens.

Taken by Filip Modrzejewski, editor in chief of the Foto Poork website, these amazing photos show two of the Hungarian JAS-39M Gripen jets taking part in the Baltic Air Policing operation as seen from a Lithuanian C-27J Spartan.

The mission of patrolling the Baltic skies has been intensified by NATO since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis amid growing tensions with Russia. The main aim of the operation is to bolster and expand the air defense capabilities of the Baltic Republics (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia), that are in possession of limited military inventory and unable to guard their sovereign airspace alone.

BAP39-Q-FotoPoork_00002

This rotation of the Baltic Air Policing deployment began on Aug. 31.

Hungary acts as the lead nation, operating its jets from the Šiauliai airbase, while additional support is being provided by the German Eurofighters, stationed – as usually – at the Ämari airbase in Estonia.

BAP39-Q-FotoPoork_00003

As Filip Modrzejewski told us, this photo-shoot was especially challenging, since the airspace was cloudy up to FL240, and the only gap between the cloud layers could have been found at 4 000 feet, where the pictures were taken.

BAP39-Q-FotoPoork_00004

The plan foresaw that the Gripens would be joined by the German Eurofighters, flying from Amari, however the Germans joined the formation briefly before leaving again for their deployment base where the weather was quickly deteriorating. The Luftwaffe’s jets were forced to return to Estonia at a supersonic speed!

BAP39-Q-FotoPoork_00005

Images Credit: Filip Modrzejewski (Foto Poork)

Glorious photos of U.S. F-22s arriving in Estonia for a brief forward deployment escorted by two A-10s

Two Raptors have visited Amari, Estonia, with two A-10s and one KC-135 tanker.

On Sept. 4, two of the four F-22s currently stationed at Spangdahlem, Germany, visited Amari airbase, in Estonia, for a brief forward deployment to the airbase supporting the NATO Baltic Air Patrol mission.

A KC-135 Stratotanker along with two F-22 Raptors and two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly overhead before landing at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, as part of a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations' ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

A KC-135 Stratotanker along with two F-22 Raptors and two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly overhead before landing at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, as part of a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations’ ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

As done during the previous deployment to Poland, the two Raptors, escorted by a KC-135 and two A-10 Warthogs (of the 8 already based there), returned to Spangdahlem later the same day: just a symbolic visit, that marked the closest deployment of the F-22 stealthy jets to Russia.

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, following a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations' ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, following a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations’ ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The F-22s, belonging to the 95th Fighter Squadron, from Tyndall Air Force Base, are expected to operate in Europe (and visit some more eastern bases) until mid-September.

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, following a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations' ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, following a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations’ ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

 

An F-22 Raptor and an A-10 Thunderbolt II fly overhead before landing at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, as part of a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations' ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

An F-22 Raptor and an A-10 Thunderbolt II fly overhead before landing at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, as part of a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations’ ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

H/T Kait Kasak and Aavo Harju for the heads-up