NATO fighter jets intercept Russian planes over the Baltic Sea

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Italian F-35 fighters assigned to the NATO Air Policing mission in Estonia intercepted four Russian planes over the Baltic Sea on Thursday. Photo courtesy of NATO

July 30 (UPI) — NATO tracked and intercepted four Russian planes, traveling without a flight plan or transponder code, over the Baltic Sea, the bloc said on Friday.

Aircraft from the air police force, including Spanish Air Force Eurofighters and Italy’s F-35 fighter jets based in Amari, Estonia, and Siauliai, Lithuania, rushed to intercept two Russian Il-22PP MUTE electronic warfare reconnaissance aircraft, a Su-24 fighter jet and an Il-76 transport aircraft on Thursday.

After the Russian planes left the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad in the Baltic Sea, they were tracked by NATO’s Combined Air Operations Center in Uedem, Germany.

Although the Russian planes never entered the airspace of NATO countries, they nevertheless traveled without identifying themselves or identifying their destination, and “therefore posed a potential risk to civilian flights”, according to the NATO press release.

The Air Policing mission began in 1961, with a particular focus on the Baltic Sea since 2004 when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all former Soviet states, joined NATO. Responsibility for policing the Baltic Sea rotates among NATO members every four months.

The Russian Defense Ministry does not usually comment on incidents described by NATO on Friday, but 2021 has seen an increase in Russian overflights without the use of communications equipment.

In March, NATO planes were dispatched 10 times in six hours in response to potentially dangerous flights by Russian military aircraft near Norway and over the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the black Sea.

Russian fighter jets, bombers and surveillance planes were intercepted over the Baltic Sea by NATO F-16s and Eurofighter jets in April, when two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers and a military plane Airborne Alert A-50 Mainstay, escorted by Su-27 and Su-35 fighter jets, flew from Russia to the Baltic Sea and then returned.

In early July, the jamming of fighter jets in Siauliai to intercept two Russian planes interrupted the press conference of Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

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