Aerial Warfare

French Scramble Mirage 2000-5 Fighter Jets for Visual Identification Off Estonian Coast

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French Scramble Mirage 2000-5 Fighter Jets for Visual Identification Off Estonian Coast

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French Scramble Mirage 2000-5 Fighter Jets for Visual Identification Off Estonian Coast
French Scramble Mirage 2000-5 Fighter Jets for Visual Identification Off Estonian Coast

NATO scrambled two French Air Force Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets from Šiauliai Air Base to visually identify a Russian Ilyushin Il-78 (NATO reporting name Midas) four-engined aerial refueling tanker aircraft flying over international waters off Estonia’s Baltic Sea coast in the morning of February 21, 2024,. The Russian aircraft, a four-engine air-to-air refueling plane, was tracked by NATO air controllers as it flew out of the Kaliningrad exclave with a northerly heading. Following NATO orders, the French Mirage pilots approached the Russian aircraft, conducted routine identification procedures, and escorted it before returning to base.

This interception, conducted under Baltic Air Policing, highlights NATO’s commitment to protecting the airspace of its member nations and maintaining constant situational awareness. At Šiauliai Air Base, French fighter pilots, alongside their Belgian counterparts, currently uphold Baltic Air Policing duties over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This mission, which has been ongoing for the past 20 years, underscores NATO’s cohesion and solidarity in defending its territory against potential threats.

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French Air Force Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets were scrambled to chase away Russian Ilyushin Il-78 flying over international waters off Estonia's Baltic Sea coast
French Air Force Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets were scrambled to chase away Russian Ilyushin Il-78 flying over international waters off Estonia’s Baltic Sea coast. (Photo by Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace)

The Baltic air-policing mission is a NATO air defence Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) in order to guard the airspace above the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Within the Alliance, preserving airspace integrity is conducted as a collective task jointly and collectively using fighter aircraft for air policing. Air policing is a purely defensive mission. NATO has established a comprehensive system of air surveillance and airspace management means, as well as Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) assets for intercepts (QRA(I)) provided by its member nations.

The Dassault Mirage 2000 is a French multirole, single-engine, fourth-generation jet fighter manufactured by Dassault Aviation. It was designed in the late 1970s as a lightweight fighter to replace the Mirage III for the French Air Force (Armée de l’air). The Mirage 2000-5 is a major advancement over previous variants and embodies a comprehensive electronic, sensor, and cockpit upgrade to expand its combat ability, while reducing pilot workload. Enhancements to offensive systems included a datalink for the targeting of MICA EM missiles, the addition of the Damocles forward-looking infrared (FLIR) targeting pod, and a Thales RDY-2 all-weather synthetic aperture radar.

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