A Russian jet identified as a military transport plane flew through Baltic air space dangerously close to the countries of Lithuania and Estonia Wednesday night, without revealing its flight plan to either country in what appears to be just the latest in an increasingly worrying series of provocations by Russian jets, possibly testing NATO defenses.
A pair of Poland-based F-16 NATO fighter jets immediately took to the skies to intercept the Russian jet and escort it on its way to its intended destination in Kaliningrad, a Russian base in the Baltic Sea. The Netherlands Defense Ministry revealed the latest confrontation with a Russian jet on Thursday.
NATO Fighters Based In Poland Scrambled To Intercept Russian Jet
The two NATO F-16 fighters that scrambled out of Malbork, Poland to cut off the rogue Russian Ilyushin II-76 jet were from the Dutch Air Force, and have been stationed in Poland in September on a NATO mission to police the skies over the Baltic region.
Though there have been several incidences of Russian aircraft buzzing the boundaries of NATO territory in the Baltics over the past few months, Wednesday night’s encounter was the first time the Dutch fighters were forced to intercept a Russian jet, or any Russian plane.
Last week, Canadian fighter planes ran off a Russian turbo-prop spy plane that penetrated NATO air space over Lithuania. The spy plane was cut off and forced back to Russia by the Canadian NATO fighter jets.
Just two days before that incident, a similar Russian spy plane was intercepted by NATO F-16 fighters after shaving the edge of Latvian air space.
First Time Dutch Fighters Forced To Intercept Russian Intruder
But Wednesday night’s incident was the first time that the Dutch F-16s were called upon to intercept a Russian plane since they arrived in Poland back in September. Originally, Dutch authorities reported that the Ilyushin, a four-engine jet, had actually penetrated NATO air space. Later, the announcement was revised to say that the Russian aircraft had simply skirted NATO territory, remaining in international air space.
The Russians also were quick to make the point that the transport jet stayed out of NATO air space.
“The flight was made on a fixed route over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea in accordance with international rules on the use of air space,” the Russian government said in a statement carried by Russia’s government-controlled news agency.
Nonetheless, the encounter was viewed as yet another in a stepped-up series of confrontations between Russia and NATO since tensions escalated over Russia’s conflict with Ukraine back in March.