Polish F-16 jets intercepted a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft in the airspace over the Baltic Sea, the General Staff of the Polish Army reported on Thursday.
The NATO Air Command announced that the operation was carried out by Polish F-16 pilots, currently stationed at the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania as part of the international Baltic Air Policing operation.
“As part of routine readiness training, an on duty pair of F-16 conducted a Tango Scramble and then continued with an exercise sortie over the Baltic Sea. During the mission, the status was changed to Alpha Scramble and the F-16s were ordered to intercept an unknown aircraft.
It was visually identified as a Russian IL-20 COOT A, which had not filed a flight plan and was not communicating with air traffic control whilst flying through the busy airspace over Baltic Sea,” the command stated in a press release on Wednesday.
“This was the first Alpha Scramble for the Polish detachment, called ‘Orlik 10’, and it was an excellent opportunity to confirm the uniformity of procedures, detachment’s operational readiness and its interoperability with other NATO components,” Polish Detachment Commander Lt Colonel Paweł Stajniak stressed.
He added that “The mission was successfully conducted in accordance with Baltic Air Policing rules of engagement and other pertaining regulations”.
The Baltic Air Policing mission tracks and intercepts planes near Allied airspace when the unidentified aircraft is not communicating with air traffic control and/or did not file a flight plan, causing potential air space violations.
The mission has been conducted since 2004, securing the airspace above Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Air Policing is a peacetime operation designed to ensure the safety of all air travellers through and near Allied airspace.