NATO jets engaged in Baltic air policing duties had to scramble six times last week, Baltic News Service reports, in each case identifying and escorting military aircraft from the Russian Federation over Baltic Sea international airspace.
According to the Lithuanian defense ministry, the assortment of Russian planes comprised an Ilyushin reconnaissance plane, an Antonov An-12 transporter (NATO reporting name: “Cub”) with two accompanying Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets (NATO reporting name: “Flanker”), plus a Tupolev Tu-214 airliner, all making their flights between Monday and Wednesday last week.
This was followed by a further Su-27 on Saturday. Reportedly, two flights during the period were also made by an Ilyushin Il-22, but since this was only a prototype jet bomber introduced by the Soviet Union in 1947, the aircraft were likely to have been of some other type.
All the aircraft were reportedly flying with their on-board transponders either switched off or not functioning at a recognized frequency, and without pre-filed flight plans. Some flights did maintain communication with regional air traffic control centers, while others did not, it is reported.
The NATO jets are based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, and at the Ämari air base west of Tallinn.
Military flights of this kind are common, as Russian planes fly to and from the Kaliningrad exclave, to the rest of Russia, aiming to cut the corner somewhat, though still in international airspace.