Wednesday, 9 November 2011

NATO Scrambles F-16's To Intercept Russian Air Force Planes Over Baltic

4 NATO F-16 fighters jets were scrambled Nov. 7 as four Russian air force planes came perilously close to the territory of the Baltic states.

Defense ministry spokeswoman Ugne Naujokaityte said that four Danish F-16 fighters, which currently police the skies of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, took to the air twice to escort the Russian planes.

This area experiences very low frequency of Russian Air Force activity thus it was a bit of a shock to see this happening. Two AN26 transport aircraft and a TU134 bomber flew in succession from Russia's Baltic territory of Kaliningrad to Russia itself, and an IL20 intelligence-gathering plane flew in the opposite direction.

Baltic states that broke away from their communist masters have a professional army but lack a potent Air Force thus NATO countries agreed to police their skies in rotation. Denmark took over from France last month to patrol the skies of Lithuania.

The line between navigational error and Russian "buzzing" of the Baltics can be hazy, experts say. While the planes involved in Monday's incident did not actually cross into the Baltic states' airspace, it comes amid growing disquiet about a Russian build-up in the region.

This news becomes more significant in the light of the fact that Russian have bolstered the Kaliningrad defense structure by deploying a brigade of marines, and deployed a new anti-aircraft missile system sweeping the Baltic states and Poland.