Tag Archives: NATO

NATO Days 2018 in Ostrava – How Centenaries Should be Done

All the most interesting “hardware” we have seen at Ostrava Air Show 2018.

On Sep. 14 – Sep. 16 we attended the NATO Days event organized in the vicinity of the Czech city of Ostrava. This year marked the 28th edition of this show which is said to be the most important of the Eastern European defense and security events. The annual show is organized at the Leoš Janáček Ostrava Airport and 2018 also marked the centenary of Czechoslovakian independence. The show, this year, was attended by 220,000 visitors.

This author regularly attends this event, and it should be said, since several years Ostrava is the place to go. The atmosphere, food court, rich static and dynamic programs altogether constitute factors that attract numerous visitors, coming from both the Czech Republic, as well as from all around Europe.

To commemorate the dignified anniversary of the Czechoslovakian independence, the show ended, on both days, with a symbolic drop of poppies carried by the OV-10 Bronco aircraft, being a part of the exceptional historical flypast.

The symbolic airdrop of poppies from the OV-10 Bronco. (All images: Author).

More than 40 dynamic displays took place during the event, but we, as The Aviationist, would like to focus on the highlights of the flying portion of the event. It is a tradition for Ostrava to have a special partner nation associated with the show. This year, this role was assumed by the United States. Hopes were very high, given the closeness of the Ample Strike exercise (involving the US bombers), however, the Americans only sent its equipment to the static display – including, as usually, the B-52 bomber.

One of the interesting highlights came in a form of the Croatian Wings of Storm aerobatic team, who had their Ostravian debut this year. Another national aerobatic team performing in Ostrava was the White-Red Sparks group, brought in by the Polish Air Force. Germany and Poland also showcased their land forces within the showground. The showground also involved numerous historical elements, provided by the Silesian Museum, including depiction of the Skoda brand history.

Close up of “Vador” in the cockpit of the Belgian F-16 during his demo.

Furthermore, given the fact that Czech Republic is looking towards acquisition of a new helicopter platform for their military, the Americans have additionally brought the UH-1 Venom helicopter to Ostrava, which was also displayed on within the static exhibition area. The fact that this helicopter was showcased is significant, as it shares 80% of its parts with the AH-1Z Viper platform. This creates an interesting set of relations, as Prague and Bucharest would like to acquire the armed variant of the Venom, while Viper is offered to Poland and Romania, as a part of attack helicopter tender procedure. All of the above is interwoven by the fact that the US-based company would like to fuse logistics between the users, creating a Central European maintenance base.

Czech Gripen.

We were in Ostrava starting from Friday, hoping that the weather would permit us to witness rehearsals and arrivals. However, heavy rain at the Mošnov airport made it impossible to carry out most of the flying scheduled on Friday. During the weekend, however, the weather was good, and humid air ensured some spectacular phenomena form during the dynamic displays.

The program on Saturday was opened by a Polish F-16, followed by an Eurofighter Typhoon from Spain. Then the Slovak VIP Airbus made a flypast over the airfield. After several ground displays the sky was taken over by a Slovenian PC-9M, and then a historical flypast took place, with the OV-10 Bronco dropping the poppies. This was followed by a spectacular display of the Vador Force Belgian Air Component F-16 display team.

The Special Tiger-colored Eurofighter Typhoon of the Spanish Air Force.

Also, notably, the Czechs have managed to bring a Spitfire to the Ostrava show. This element was undoubtedly missing from the Polish counterpart in Radom. The Czechs have proven that not only is it possible to attract the US forces to contribute to the show (even though they were only present within the static), but it is also feasible to properly honor own heritage during the event.

The Supermarine Spitfire.

Further attractions included a Danish F-16 and Finnish Hornet, both staging a spectacular dynamic display. The Finnish Hornet demo has to be one of the author’s favorites this year – in Ostrava the spectacular nature of the display was further enhanced with the jet dispensing large quantities of flares.

Alongside Spitfire, the Czech organizer has also addressed the Warsaw Pact era within the display, as we could have witnessed a MiG-15 jet in the air, alongside the flamboyant Mi-24/35 demo show. Traditionally for Ostrava, we’ve also seen the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight team take part in the event. This year, involving: Lansen, Viggen and Draken.

The Saab Viggen.

The Saab Draken.

The Polish Air Force participated in the NATO Days with its ASAR W-3 Sokół platform and the service has also sent its White-Red Sparks aerobatic team to Czech Republic. Slovaks, who are also a neighbor of the Czechs, have sent their Fulcrums to Ostrava, to perform a formation flypast, maneuvering over the airfield. For many Poles this has been one of a rare occasions to witness Fulcrum in the air, since the jets have now been grounded since July. The rumors, however, suggest that the Polish MiG-29s are going to be back in the air soon enough – fingers crossed here. The last two displays were performed by the French Armee de’l Air Rafale demo team and by the RAF Typhoon demo team.

The Rafale demo.

Then, a Czech Mi-24 performed a spectacular routine over the airfield. The dynamic/aviation portion of the show was brought to a closure by a “Nordic Flypast” involving the jets of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight, Finnish Hornet and Danish F-16 – and this atypical formation also made several passes over Mosnov, also dispensing flares and performing some spectacular breaks.

The Swedish Air Force Historic Flight escorted by the Finnish AF F/A-18 and the Danish AF F-16.

Summing it up, NATO Days in Ostrava lived up to the expectations, and had it not been for poor weather on Friday, the event would have been almost perfect. It is also a significant benchmark set for the organizers of the airshows all around Europe. Since the Ostrava show was a Czechosolvakian centenary event, this forces one to draw a comparison to RIAT or Radom Air Show this year which have been mildly disappointing, given the special occasion. For instance, the Czechs have managed to have a Spitfire perform a dynamic display during their show, whereas in Poland no warbird as such, very much associated with the history of the Polish military aviation, was presented in the air.

The Finnish Air Force Hornet during its display routine.

The Polish Air Force F-16 Tiger Demo.

If one wanted to complain, we could say that one would expect the Special Partner Nation to send some hardware into the air. Despite the high hopes, no surprises appeared in the Czech Republic last weekend. A-10 demo team, or F-22 Raptor dynamic display were among the hopeful wishes that have been circulated around social media prior to the show. Maybe the organizers could use these as a suggestion for the next edition?

Regardless of the above, if you live in Europe and the last air shows of August and early September still leave you hungry for more, Ostrava is definitely a place to go and it cannot be recommended highly enough. The general conclusion, after being slightly disappointed with the Polish and British centenaries this year, is that there’s still some hope that the air shows may still be very good and leave one with a positive impression. The NATO Days event set the bar high.


The Italian Typhoons Have Deployed To Iceland To Take Over NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing Duty

For the third time, the Italian F-2000A jets have deployed to Keflavik to ensure the safety of Iceland’s airspace.

On Sept. 4, four Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets deployed to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, to contribute to NATO’s enforcement of Iceland’s sovereignty.

Over the next few weeks, the Italian pilots will undertake QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties, providing intercept capabilities for Iceland, a NATO ally that does not have a full range of air defence assets. Along with the standard air policing activities, the Italian Typhoons will also conduct joint training activities together with the Icelandic Coast Guard and the NATO Control and Reporting Centre.

This is the third time, after 2013 and 2017, the Italians deploy to Keflavik for NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing.

According to NATO, over the past ten years, nine Allies – Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and the United States – have deployed fighter aircraft on the mission in Iceland.

Over the last few years, the Italian Typhoons have contributed to the enhanced air policing across all Europe, including Bulgaria, Montenegro and the Baltic States. From January to April 2018, when four Italian F-2000 Typhoons were deployed to Amari, Estonia, as part of the Enhanced Air Policing North Baltic Eagle, the Italian Air Force was securing the airspaces of six nations [Italy, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia and Albania (on a rotational basis with effort shared with the Hellenic Air Force)]. A record within NATO.

Sweden Protests As Russian Fighter Buzzes Swedish Spyplane Over The Baltic Sea

A Russian fighter flies within 2 meters a Swedish Air Force spyplane, causing the Swedish minister of defence to condemn the behaviour as “unacceptable”.

In what is just the latest in a long series of close encounters over the Baltic Sea on Jun. 19, a Russian Su-27 Flanker flew dangerously close to a Swedish Air Force S102B flying an intelligence gathering mission over the Baltic Sea.

Most of times such intercepts, that have occurred in international airspace for decades, are just routine stuff: the fighter in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) is launched to perform a VID (Visual IDentification) run on the spyplane; the interceptor reaches the ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) plane and follows it for a few minutes before returning to base.

However, according to the reports, the behaviour of the Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled to intercept the Swedish or US spyplanes over the Baltic Sea off Kaliningrad Oblast is often a bit too aggressive and not compliant with the international procedures that would recommend the interceptor to keep a safe distance from the “zombie”: usually, 50 to 150 meters.

Indeed, according to the Swedish MoD, during the intercept on Jun. 19, the Russian Flanker allegedly flew within 2 meters (!) of the spyplane. Provided that was the distance between the two jets, the risk of collision was pretty high.

The Swedish Air Force operates a pair of Gulfstream IVSP aircraft, known in Swedish service as S102B Korpen, used for ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) purposes. The aircraft, based on the American Gulfstream business jet but equipped with eavesdropping sensors, routinely conduct surveillance missions in the Baltic Sea.

One of the Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen aircraft (credit: Johan Lundgren/Försvarsmakten)

According to Swedish Air Force officials, during those sorties, the Korpens fly in international airspace, with their transponders turned on, and regularly transmit their position to the relevant civilian air traffic control agency, both domestic and, if needed, foreign ones.

Reports of barrel rolls, aggressive maneuvers, etc. involving Russian interceptors and NATO/allied aircraft (or viceversa) have become a bit too frequent: there is a significant risk these close encounters may one day end with a midair collision, with the consequences that everyone can imagine.

Top image: file photo of a Su-27 over the Baltic Sea as seen from a Portuguese P-3 Orion

H/T Erik Arnberg for the heads up!



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.




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