NATO scrambled Spanish Eurofighters and Italian F-35s on Thursday 29 July 2021 to intercept Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea. As Allied radars tracked three unknown aircraft leaving Kaliningrad, NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem in Germany launched the allied fighter aircraft to intercept and identify them. The NATO fighters, assigned to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, identified two Il-22PP Mute electronic warfare aircraft and an Su-24 Fencer fighter aircraft. At the same time an IL-76 Candid transport aircraft was tracked, intercepted and identified in the same area. The Russian aircraft did not have flight plans nor transmit transponder codes, and thus posed a potential risk to civilian flights.
“The Alliance Air Policing system monitors the airspace across Europe 24/7 and responds when aircraft are identified flying without a flight plan or without a transponder signal,” said Major General Karsten Stoye, Chief of Staff Allied Air Command. “The air and sea lanes in this region are congested with large volumes of civilian traffic transiting through the area, so aircraft not following international air safety regulations pose a potential danger to civilian traffic,” added Major General Stoye.
Upon completion of the mission, the Spanish and Italian Air Force fighters returned to their bases in Lithuania and Estonia. The Russian aircraft intercepted on Thursday never entered Alliance airspace, and the interceptions were conducted in a routine manner. Across Europe, NATO fighter jets are on duty around the clock, ready to scramble in case of suspicious or unannounced flights near the airspace of NATO Allies. In recent weeks there has been an uptick in scrambles in the region in response to Russian military aircraft flying close to NATO territory over international waters.