Tag Archives: Baltic Air Policing

Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon Accidentally Fires Live Air-to-Air Missile Over Estonia, 25 miles west of the Russian border.

Live AIM-120 AMRAAM Missile Still Missing with Search Underway.

A Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft accidently fired an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) while flying near Otepää in Estonia, less than 50 km west of the Russian border. The missile has not been recovered. The last assumed location of the missile is roughly 40 km to the north of the city of Tartu, and its direction was northbound.  The incident took place on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 sometime around 3:45 PM local.

A search is currently underway for the wreckage of the missile. According to a statement by Estonian Defense Forces, the AIM-120 AMRAAM was equipped with an automatic destruct mechanism intended to destroy the missile if it were accidentally discharged, but officials could not confirm if the missile had been destroyed. They have issued an official hotline phone number in Estonia to call immediately if parts of the missile are found, and the public is cautioned not to touch or approach suspected missile debris. The phone number to report suspected missile fragments in Estonia is: +372 717 1900.

AIM-120 AMRAAM on an Italian F-16 back in 2007. (Image credit: SCDBob via Wiki)

The Eurofighter Typhoon that accidentally fired the missile was based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, where it returned following the incident. Conflicting reports say the aircraft had either been participating in a training exercise or a QRA (quick reaction alert) drill: considered that alert aircraft carry live missiles, the latter seems more likely, even though aerial exercises in the context of enhanced air policing operations may involve armed aircraft.

The aircraft that accidentally discharged the missile was accompanied by another Spanish Typhoon and two French Mirage 2000 according to Estonia’s Ministry of Defense. This means the Eurofighter Typhoon C.16 was one of the six aircraft contingent from the Spanish military that assists with the NATO enhanced air policing mission in the region along with other aircraft. The air policing mission has received significant notoriety over the last years because of increased Russian air activity in the region, with the NATO air policing patrols frequently tasked with interception and escort of Russian aircraft.

Estonia’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas posted on Facebook that there were “No human casualties,” and characterized the incident as “extremely regrettable.”

He went on to say, “I am sure that the Estonian defense forces will, in cooperation with our allies, identify all the circumstances of the case and make every effort to make sure that nothing like this happens again.”

The incident calls into question the protocols associated with using live weapons in close proximity to civilian areas, and also raises concerns about the safety of the NATO air policing mission. What are the procedures for firing a live missile? How can a missile be fired by “accident”? Isn’t there a sort of Master Armament Switch that prevents arming the missiles?

This incident does appear to be unique however, with other accidental discharges of air-to-air missiles, especially in areas proximate to NATO patrol areas, being non-existent. In general, these patrol flights have historically exhibited a good safety record, free from accidental weapons releases.

H/T @juanmab for the heads-up!

Up Close And Personal With The Italian Typhoon Jets Deployed To Bulgaria Under NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing

Four Italian Typhoons have deployed to Bulgaria to bolster NATO’s Air Policing mission in the Black Sea region.

Four Italian Air Force F-2000A Typhoon jets have deployed to Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, to undertake the NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission from July until October 2017.

The Italian Typhoons belong to the 4° Stormo (Wing) of Grosseto, 36° Stormo from Gioia del Colle and the 37° Stormo from Trapani even though, as always happens when involved in real operations, the Italian aircrews will operate as part of a Task Force where, regardless of the unit, badges and traditions (all the squadrons involved in the deployment have recently celebrated their centenary…) all personnel, aircraft and equipment are completely integrated and interchangeable, thanks to fully standardized procedures and training.

The Italian rotation to Bulgaria will overlap until September with the RAF detachment of four Typhoons deployed to Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in Romania as part of the same Southern Air Policing mission.

Following a familiarization phase, the Italian team will undergo certification by NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Torrejon, Spain before providing Air Policing tasks alongside the local Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum jets.

The Italian F-2000As on the ramp at Graf Ignatievo Air Base.

A Bulgarian Air Force Fulcrum taxies next to the Italian Typhoons.

Since Bulgaria “is perfectly able to conduct NATO Air Policing with its assets; this enhanced Air Policing capability offered by the Italian jets provides the CAOC with more flexibility to conduct the mission.”

This is the first time the Italian Typhoons take part in the NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing mission in the Black Sea area: so far the ItAF “Tiffies” have supported the Icelandic (in 2013 and earlier this year) and Baltic (in 2015) while supporting the Interim Air Policing task over Slovenia (task shared with the Hungarian Air Force) and over Albania (task shared with the Hellenic Air Force).

Typhoon’s rear view.

One of the ItAF Typhoons parked at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, after its arrival on Jul. 7.

Breaking for landing

“While Air Policing is a collective peacetime task to ensure integrity and security of NATO airspace, the enhanced Air Policing was agreed and implemented by NATO Allies at the Wales Summit in 2014 under the Assurance Measures. These measures are aimed at assuring Allies along the NATO’s eastern flank of Alliance commitment and resolve as well as deterrence and defence,” said NATO in an official release about the deployment.

The images in this post were taken by Nikolay Dimov at Graf Ignatievo as the Italians landed to support the Air Policing task in Bulgaria on Jul. 7, 2017.

Two of the four IRIS-T air-to-air missiles carried by the Italian Typhoons in Bulgaria.

Typhoon head on: take a look at the loadout.

Image credit: Nikolay Dimov

 

Salva

New Video Shows Close Encounter Between NATO F-16 And Su-27 Flanker Escorting Russian Defense Minister Plane Over The Baltic

Exciting moments over the Baltic Sea as a Polish F-16 shadows a Russian VIP plane sparking the reaction by an escorting Su-27 Flanker.

Zvezda has just released some interesting footage allegedly showing a NATO F-16 approaching Russian Defense Ministry Sergei Shoigu’s plane while flying over the Baltic Sea.

According to the first reports and analysis of the footage, the F-16 (most probably a Polish Air Force Block 52+ aircraft supporting the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from Lithuania – hence, armed) shadowed the Tu-154 aircraft (most probably the aircraft with registration RA-85686) carrying the defense minister en route to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad when one armed Russian Su-27 Flanker escorting Shoigu’s plane maneuvered towards the NATO aircraft, forcing it to move farther.

Some minutes later, the F-16 left the area, according to the reports.

Similar close encounters occur quite frequently in the Baltic region.

We have published many articles in the past about Russian aircraft coming quite close to both NATO fighters in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duty and U.S. spyplanes: indeed, the latest incident comes a day after the Russian defense ministry said an RC-135 U.S. reconnaissance plane had aggressively and dangerously maneuvered in the proximity of a Russian fighter jet over the Baltic. The ministry said at the same time that another RC-135 had been intercepted by a Russian jet in the same area.

Business as usual….

H/T Lasse Holm for sending this over to us.

 

Salva

Salva

Russian Activity In The Baltic Region Leads To Spike In Alert Scrambles By NATO Interceptors Supporting BAP Mission

The NATO fighter aircraft supporting BAP (Baltic Air Policing) mission in the Baltic States conducted six alert scrambles to identify and escort Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea in one week.

The Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania has just released some interesting data about the activities conducted by the NATO fighter aircraft deployed to the Baltic States in support of NATO BAP mission.

According to the Lithuanian MoD, in the week between May 22 and 28, allied aircraft were called to perform six alert scrambles to identify and escort Russian combat planes flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.

On May 22 interceptors were scrambled to intercept one An-26 of the Russian Federation flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad Oblast in international airspace over the Baltic sea. The Russian transport plane was flying according to a pre-filed FPL, maintained radio contact with the ATC agencies but had its onboard transponder switched off.

On the same day, another Russian An-26 flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad was intercepted over the Baltic (once again and as usual in international airspace) because the submitted flight plan did not correspond to the actual flight and, although the aircrew had radio contact with the ATC, the transponder was switched off.

On May 23 NATO fighter jets were directed to intercept one Tu-134 of the Russian Federation in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. The twin-engined, narrow-body, transport aircraft was flying inbound to Kaliningrad with the transponder switched off: although the ATC had bilateral radio contact with the Tu-134 (NATO reporting name: Crusty) the flight plan for the aircraft had been submitted behind time.

On May 25 NATO fighters intercepted one an Il-20 Coot spyplane flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. The Il-20 intelligence gathering aircraft did not have a filed FPL, did not maintain radio contact and did not use the onboard transponder, a kind of behaviour that has raised some concern in the past, when Russians spyplanes flying in the vicinity of busy airways have almost collided with civilian traffic in the region as happened for instance on Mar. 3, 2014, when SAS flight SK 681, a Boeing 737 with 132 people on board from Copenhagen to Rome almost collided with an Il-20 Coot, about 50 miles to the southwest of Malmö, Sweden.

On May 26 NATO air policing fighter aircraft intercepted one Russian Tu-134 escorted by two Su-27 Flankers that were flying from Kaliningrad to the mainland Russia in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. Although the Tu-134 had a valid flight plan, the onboard transponder switched on and kept radio contact with the ATC,  the two Su-27s that escorted it till the Gulf of Finland and then returned to Kaliningrad over international waters, had no FPL, onboard transponders off, and did not maintain radio contact with the local air traffic control agencies.

On May 28 NATO aircraft intercepted one An-72 and two escorting Su-27s flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad in international waters over the Baltic Sea. The An-72 was flying according to a pre-filed flight plan, kept radio contact and used the onboard transponder. The Su-27 complied with none of these requirements according to the Lithuanian authorities.

The spike in alert scrambles comes after some weeks of calmness with just six scrambles in the period between March 27 and May 22.

The Polish Air Force carries out the BAP mission with four F-16 fighter aircraft from Poznan deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania, while the Spanish Air Force deployed five F-18 Hornets from Zaragoza Air Base in Spain, to Ämari, Estonia.

H/T @cezarysta for the heads-up. Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski

Salva

Ramstein Alloy 4 Served To Exercise Baltic Air Policing Alert Aircraft Procedures

Check Out These Awesome Air-to-Air Shots Taken During Ramstein Alloy 4 Exercise.

The fourth edition of the NATO air drills series Ramstein Alloy took place in Baltic airspace, mainly over Lithuania, on Apr. 25 and 26.

Combat planes supporting the Baltic Air Policing mission and belonging to the Royal Netherlands Air Force, German Air Force, Polish Air Force and Royal Norwegian Air Force took part in the exercise alongside transport aircraft from Lithuania, a U.S. tanker and NATO AWACS aircraft undertaking several different missions to exercise BAP alert procedures as well as to enhance relations and interoperability amongst allied Air Forces.

The BAP mission serves to protect the Baltic states airspace. The activity of the Russian Air Force in the area remains one of the main reasons for which the mission has been established, however the NATO assets in the region are also scrambled to intercept civilian aircraft that do not use proper flight plans, transponder codes or which have lost communication with the ATC. And most of the aforesaid procedures were trained during the Ramstein Alloy 4 training event.

A Dutch F-16 escorts the C-27J Spartan.

According to NATO, “participants practiced air intercepts, air to air refueling, search and rescue operations as well as practice diversions, the approaches to different Baltic airfields. Furthermore, involved aircraft also trained intercept procedures for COMLOSS situations, a scenario in which a civilian aircraft loses contact with ground controls and requires midair identification by Air Policing alert jets.”

The RNlAF F-16s involved in the Ramstein Alloy 4 mission that included the escort to the C-27J

Foto Poork’s Filip Modrzejewski took part in the exercise and provided us some stunning air-to-air images taken during Ramstein Alloy.

The photo-shoot took place at the altitudes between 22 and 24,000 feet, with the C-27 Spartan playing the role of a photoship. Due to the scarcity of oxygen available in the air, all of the photos were taken through the Spartan’s windows which, nonetheless remain photographer-friendly, as the images prove.

Dutch F-16s and one of two Typhoons closing on the camera ship’s left wing.

Moreover, taking photos as high also has its advantages, being less dependent on the weather. The shoot involved three formations: 2x F-16s, 2x F-16s + 2x Eurofighters, and, finally, a pair of Eurofighters. The aircraft also performed some breaks, to make the photos even more interesting.

The operation is a sequel to the Baltic Region Training Event (BRTE) series, 20 editions of which preceded the Ramstein Alloy exercise.

The two armed Typhoons break the formation.

Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski