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Belgian jets conduct first Baltic Air Policing intercept of their deployment

A Russian Federation Air Force Su-27 escorted by a Belgian Air Force F-16 over the Baltic Sea. Photo courtesy Belgian Air Force

RAMSTEIN, Germany - Just after taking over the augmenting role for NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Belgian F-16 fighter jets were scrambled by Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem, Germany, for the first time to respond to an air incident in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.  

On the afternoon of Sept. 5, 2017, a NATO radar picked up two Russian Federation Air Force fighter jets leaving Kaliningrad airspace heading north in international airspace. The military aircraft did not communicate their identity and were not in contact with civilian Air Traffic Control agencies. 

In line with standard procedures, the Belgian F-16s then took to the skies to identify the Russian Federation Air Force Su-27 jets, which subsequently joined up with a Russian Il-76 heavy cargo aircraft. All Russian aircraft returned to Kaliningrad and the Belgian F-16 jets safely landed at Ämari Air Base.  

The incident demonstrates NATO’s readiness to respond to unknown situations in the airspace close to its borders. With the goal of safeguarding the airspace over the European Allies, NATO’s peacetime 24/7 Air Policing mission is overseen by Allied Air Command at Ramstein and its two Combined Air Operations Centres at Uedem, Germany, in the North and Torrejon, Spain, in the south. 

Baltic Air Policing is a special mission in that Allies take turns deploying their jets to the region to provide an intercept capability to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as these members do not have their own fighter aircraft for such missions. At present the Baltic Air Policing mission is led by United States Air Force F-15 fighters deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania, and the Belgian F-16s in Ämari, Estonia. 

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

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