Nato fighters intervened eight times last week to identify 18 Russian military planes in international airspace above the Baltic Sea, the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence reported on its Internet site. Most of the Russian planes were flying without flight plans and with their transponders off. For four months, which will end in early September, nine fighter planes from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) -four Polish F-16Cs and five Spanish EF-18/As – have been policing the airspace above the Baltic countries from the air bases of Siauliai in Lithuania and Amari in Estonia.
On August 1, allied fighters carried out four scrambles to identify an Antonov An-26, two MiG-31s, two Sukhoi Su-27s (twice) and two Su-33s, flying mostly to and from the enclave of Kaliningrad, in the Federation of Russia, the Ministry stated. Similar operations were conducted on August 2, 3 and 5.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are members of NATO since March 2004, have no combat aircraft. Other members of the alliance police the airspace of the three countries on a rotating basis. This is 44th rotation, according to NATO. Belgium will replace Spain from early September to the end of December in Amari, Estonia, with four F-16s.