Tag Archives: NATO Baltic Air Policing mission

Here Are The Photos Of The First Italian Typhoons Alert Scramble In The Baltics This Year

The Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons intercepted a Russian An-26 transport aircraft over the Baltics. And here are some photos.

On Feb. 1, 2018, two Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon F-2000A jets executed their first Alert Scramble to respond to a Russian Federation Air Force aircraft that flew over the Baltic Sea with the transponder turned off.

The two aircraft were actually not launched but “diverted” from a training flight when the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany, detected an unidentified track crossing the Baltic airspace over international waters.

The two ItAF Typhoons, belonging to the Task Force Air 36° Stormo, identified the “zombie” as a Russian Federation Air Force An-26 transport aircraft. According to NATO, the two Italian aircraft flew alongside the transiting Russian plane and broadcast their transponder signal allowing civilian air traffic controllers to keep other air traffic clear of the area.

The Russian An-26 intercepted by the Italian F-2000As over the Baltics.

The Italian Air Force Typhoons have been deployed to Ämari Air Base, Estonia, augmenting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission since early January 2018. Together with the Royal Danish Air Force lead detachment at Siaullai, Lithuania, their task is to provide 24/7 fighter capabilities that can be launched by the CAOC at Uedem, Germany, in response to unidentified air tracks in the Baltic Region.

The Italian detachment logged 100 flying hours during training flights over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania beneficial for both Italian pilots and Baltic military air traffic controllers to further improve skills and interoperability, on Jan. 25, 2018.

One of the two Typhoons shadows the intercepted Curl.

This is the second ItAF rotation in support of NATO BAP mission. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 27, 2015, as part of the TFA (Task Force Air) based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, four Typhoons of the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (the three Wings that fly the Euro-canard) logged about 900 flying hours, launching for 40 A-Scrambles (Alert Scrambles) and more than 160 T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles) during the first rotation as lead detachment of NATO BAP. Noteworthy, no photograph of intercepted Russian aircraft was released during and after the 2015 detachment, even though the Italians had some really interesting close encounters with some pretty interesting aircraft, including some Tu-160 Blackjack and Su-27 Flanker jets. However, unlike what happened three years ago, this time the Italian MoD has promptly shared some shots of the An-26 intercepted by the Typhoons, including those that you can find in this post.

Escort duty for this Italian Air Force Typhoon, at safe distance from the An-26 intercepted over the Baltics.

Image credit: Italy MoD

 

 

 

Polish F-16s prepare to take part in NATO Baltic Air Patrol mission for the very first time

Poland is about to support the air policing mission over the Baltic States.

The Polish Air Force is to commit some of its F-16 jets to the NATO BAP (Baltic Air Policing) operation beginning in May.

This is going to be the first time long-term deployment to Lithuania for the Polish Vipers: so far, Poland has contributed to the mission with the venerable MiG-29 Fulcrum jets.

Pilots and soldiers of the 31st Airbase of Krzesiny (in the vicinity of Poznan) are going to be tasked with operating four F-16 airframes during the BAP mission. Furthermore, as Polska Zbrojna reports, the operation is going to have a very joint and expansive character, since the deployment is to include personnel of the Łask 32nd AB (which is the second base hosting the Polish Air Force’s Lockheed jets), navigators and air traffic controllers, weather specialists, Polish military Police, as well as intelligence and counterintelligence servicemen.

This is the first time that the Polish F-16 replaced the Soviet-era Fulcrums in the Baltic Air Policing task. A few years back, doubts were voiced, as to why the F-16 could not deployed in the Baltics, ranging from cost considerations, to FOD damage risk.

It seems that tape M6.5 update, recently implemented, was required to have the jets deployed.

It is interesting to notice a change in the Polish F-16’s engagement doctrine: along with operating in the “recce role” against ISIS in the Middle East, they will also support BAP from Lithuania.

If you want to find out more about the Polish F-16 aircraft, check out our feature article published last year.

The “Orlik” Deployment is going to be stationed at the BAP MOB (Main Operating Base) in Šiauliai. Intelligence and ATC officers and navigators are going to be stationed at the control and recce center of Karmelava.

The Polish rotation is going to last from May 1 to Aug. 31, with the Polish pilots of the Krzesiny AB carrying out the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) and air policing duties. Deployment of the forces is going to begin in late April, and it is going to be preceded with “Orlik-17” exercise, planned in Poland.

This is the seventh Polish rotation in support of Baltic Air Policing operation, with the Poles now taking over the responsibilities from the Dutch RNlAF pilots flying the F-16 fighter aircraft, who have been on duty in Lithuania since Jan 5, 2017.

The first ever Polish deployment took place back in 2006. The mission has been carried out since 2004, when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia asked NATO to provide air assets to protect their airspace.

Image Credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

 

Russian fighters often shadow German Tornados over Syria but “they do it professionally” Luftwaffe says

Close encounters in the skies over Syria between Russian and German fighters.

As reported by several media outlets on Feb. 16, Russian Air Force (RuAF) fighter jets often shadow German Air Force (GAF) Tornados performing reconnaissance missions in Syrian airspace.

Although shadowing a foreign combat plane in Syria’s skies filled with jets and UAVs may lead to some tense situations, as explained by RT.com, both sides act professionally and prevent incidents.

A claim that was also confirmed by Lt. Gen. Joachim Wundrak, a Luftwaffe official recently returned from anti-ISIS coordination center in Qatar, who told to Rheinische Post daily that RuAF pilots take no aggressive actions against their German colleagues and that no incidents have been registered because “those encounters go on professionally.”

Wundrak revealed that among the aircraft used by the RuAF to shadow German Tornados there are also the 4++ generation Su-35S Flanker air superiority fighters which joined the air war over Syria few weeks ago.

In his opinion RuAF performs this kind of sorties to make clear that “unlike the international (US-led) anti-IS coalition, they operate at the invitation of the legitimate Syrian government.”

Nevertheless according to Wundrak these encounters are carried out safely also because Luftwaffe pilots know how to interact with their Russian colleagues thanks to the experience they gained during the Baltic Air Policing mission, where Germany regularly provides fighter jets for patrolling airspace of NATO member states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, countries that do not have interceptor jets to secure their own airspace.

The Luftwaffe has deployed six Tornado fighter bombers and an Airbus tanker to NATO’s Incirlik airbase in Turkey as part of Germany’s contribution to the war against Islamic State.

GAF Tornado

Top image: Pavel Vanka; Bottom image: Bundeswehr

 

Video provides behind the scenes look at the Russian Su-27 Flanker operations in the Baltic area

An interesting video provides some details about Russian presence in the Baltic region.

Although rather difficult to understand (unless you speak Russian), the video in this post is quite interesting as it provides some footage of the Russian warplanes operations in Kaliningrad.

Kaliningrad Oblast, is a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

Russian warplanes almost daily fly from mainland Russia to the airbases located in the 15,100 sq km (5,800 sq mi) exclave where about 1 million Russian and Russophone people live.

Several military planes, including the Su-27 Flankers involved in the recent, dangerous close encounters with U.S. and NATO planes over the Baltic Sea, are currently flying from Chernyakhovsk, a naval air base located in the central region of the exclave.

Russian warplanes usually deployed to Chkalovsk, Kaliningrad’s largest airfield, located 9 km northwest of Kaliningrad and able to accomodate bombers and interceptors. However, the base is being repaired and all the activities have moved to Chernyakhovsk were QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) is provided by  Su-27 Flankers. Single ones since, unlike NATO planes that operate in pairs during air policing missions, Russian planes are scrambled singularly.

According to a rough translation provided by some readers and Twitter followers, the service aired by Zvezda (a Russian nationwide TV network run by the Russian Ministry of Defense) explains that, while securing the western borders of the motherland, Russian pilots constantly train for air-to-air combat, flying several daily sorties.

“There are sufficient resources are on duty to defend from any intruder.”

The interviews with pilots do not unveil anything special; still, the footage is interesting as it shows the flight ops in Kaliningrad: something you don’t see too often.

H/T @oplatsen and @alcebaid for the help with the translation

 

Italian Typhoons scrambled for the 27th time in 2015 to intercept Russian plane over the Baltic Sea

Baltic Air Patrol QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) service is always quite busy.

On Apr. 18, the Italian Air Force two Italian Air Force Typhoons deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania, for the NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, were scrambled to identify and escort a Russian Federation patrol aircraft flying close to Latvia’s airspace.

The alert take off of the QRA aircraft was ordered by the CAOC (Combined Air Operations Centre) in Uedem, Germany to intercept a Russian Il-20 on a routine intelligence gathering sortie over the Baltic Sea.

Interestingly, the intercept mission flown by the Italian F-2000s (as the Typhoons are designated within the Aeronautica Militare) was the 27th since the Italian Air Force took over the lead role of BAP on Jan. 1! Quite impressive, if compared to the standard frequency QRA cells are scrambled during the standard national air security service at home.

One of the 27 missions flown by the Italian Typhoons was launched to intercept a Tu-22M Backfire bomber flying at supersonic speed towards Sweden.

Since Russian invasion of Crimea and subsequent international crisis over Ukraine, Russian activity in the Baltic Area has increased, often forcing NATO jet fighters on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at several airbase in Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, to perform Alert Scrambles to identify Moscow’s warplanes flying with transponder switched off, no flight plan and no radio contact, in international airspace.

Russian planes based in Kaliningrad Oblast have also intercepted NATO spyplanes in the area.

Some of these close encounters have been quite controversial with NATO and Russian planes coming a bit too close one another.

Image credit: Eurofighter