Tag Archives: 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!

 

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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.

 

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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

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Here are the first photographs of the Italian Typhoons arriving in Iceland to provide NATO Air Policing duties

The Italian Typhoons have arrived in Keflavik.

On Mar. 17, supported by two KC-767A tanker of the 14° Stormo (Wing) from Pratica di Mare airbase, six Italian Air Force Typhoons have arrived in Iceland to undertake QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) and NATO Air Policing duties.

The Eurofighter F-2000A jets (this is the designation of the single-seaters in accordance with the Italian Mission Design Seies) belong to the three units that operate the Typhoon: the 4° Stormo, from Grosseto; the 36° Stormo, from Gioia del Colle; and the 37° Stormo, from Trapani.

A Typhoon of the 18° Gruppo sporting the typical checkered tail.

An F-2000A from the Gioia del Colle-based 36° Stormo. Two Gruppi depend from this Wing: the 10 and 12° Gruppo.

The aircraft will operate until mid-April as part of a Task Force where personnel and equipment are completely integrated and interchangeable thanks to fully standardized procedures and training.

The images in this post were taken by photographer Eggert Norðdahl as the Typhoons arrived at Keflavik airbase for their second tour of duty in Iceland: in June 2013, as part of Operation “Icy Skies”, six Italian Eurofighters securing the airspace on the ally in the “High North.”

One of the Typhoons of the 4° Stormo. The Italians deployed to Iceland with three drop tanks, one AIM-120 AMRAAM and one IRIS-T air-to-air missile.

Image credit: Eggert Norðdahl

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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