The British Royal Air Force, working with NATO, intercepted Russian jets in the Baltic region as friction rises between the great powers. The interception, carried out by Typhoon quick reaction alert aircraft, was part of NATO’s continued mission to police the Baltic airspace.
The British fighters reported a Tupolev 22 bomber, four Sukhoi Su27 fighters, a Beriev A50 early warning aircraft, and an Antonov An26 transport aircraft. The Russian jets were engaged in training exercises.
Western air forces have seen increased activity, to the point where flying out to meet Russian jets has become commonplace.
“Today’s interception of the Russian Flankers [SU27 fighters] is all in a day’s work for an RAF fighter pilot,” according to Flight Lieutenant Mark Long.
The mission was described as successful, and the U.K. jets escorted the planes away from NATO airspace.
NATO pilots are flying in an increasingly hostile environment.
The rise in Russian activity began after the annexation of Crimea, and was exasperated by the Saber Strike war games.
The Saber Strike exercises are conducted every year, but in 2014 the games had additional NATO support. Troops from the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Norway and the U.K are participating.
The war games started in Latvia, a recent addition to NATO and a country with vivid memories of being forced into the Soviet Union.
The training exercises have helped reaffirm NATO’s commitment to Eastern Europe after the events in the Ukraine.
Russia saw the games as a sign of aggression.
“Of course we won’t stand idly and watch the militarization of the countries in our neighborhood and will take all necessary political and military measures to ensure our security,” according to a Russian diplomat.
They did the natural thing and began their own training operations. And it has made a big difference.
In the past week, NATO aircraft have intercepted unidentified jets 13 times around the Baltic region.
One of the most startling encounters with Russian aircraft came in April when two Tupolev 95s, Russian surveillance planes, were spotted off the coast of Scotland. Once again, quick reaction alert aircraft scrambled and intercepted the jets. The Russian jets then flew towards Denmark before heading north, away from NATO airspace.
It’s important to note that NATO forces have continued to act calmly, and commanders have made it clear that no encounter has been dangerous.
Nevertheless, a peaceful future relationship between Russia and the West is still elusive. Until the powers can settle their differences, NATO planes will have to be on high alert to intercept more jets.
(Photo RAF Eurofighter Typhoon)