US Air Forces Europe has released previously unseen video footage of Air Force F-15 Eagle Jets intercepting Russian fighters.
ABC News reports that the incident occurred last fall over the Baltic…
The videos were released as part of an effort to highlight the U.S. military’s participation in the NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltics.
The U.S. is among the NATO member countries that routinely rotate aircraft and personnel to the Baltic countries on short deployments.
Their mission is to be ready to intercept Russian aircraft that fly into the airspace around the Baltic Sea without filing a flight plan, don’t communicate civilian air traffic controllers or don’t turn on the transponders that identify them as belonging to the Russian military.
“Such aircraft create unsafe environments including air-to-air mishaps or these actions may indicate hostile acts such as hijackings,” says a factsheet about the mission posted on a NATO website. “Air Policing responses seek to ensure the safety of the airspace and its users.”
Of course who could blame NATO for having to police Baltic airspace, given Russia’s aggressive expansion westward towards NATO military bases…
For the last four months, the 493rd Fighter Squadron has been in Lithuania leading the NATO policing mission. It has conducted about 30 intercepts of Russian aircraft. The videos shows two intercepts of Russian fighters on Nov. 23 and Dec. 13 that occurred in the international airspace above the Baltic Sea. In each case two F-15’s intercepted two Russian Navy Su-30s.
A US Air Forces Europe press release said both intercepts were initiated “because the Russian aircraft did not broadcast the appropriate codes required by air traffic control and had no flight plan on file.”
Lt. Col. Cody Blake, the commander of the 493rd squadron says the intercepts “don’t happen on a day to day basis but it is a routine thing.” adding “they’re always conducted in a safe and professional manner.” Blake said the intercepts ensure the sovereignty of the airspace of Baltic countries.
US military and defense officials regularly state that the majority of air encounters with Russian aircraft are safe and professional, although it is the “unsafe and unprofessional” encounters that regularly make the news. In those cases it’s less about how close the aircraft come to each other than the flight behavior demonstrated by Russian pilots towards American aircraft, or vice versa of course.
The Air Force’s video release also includes behind the scenes footage shot in 2014 that shows pilots quickly putting on their gear on short notice to scramble for an intercept.
The Baltic States have become one of the key battleground regions in Russia’s push against NATO expansion and as the Kremlin seeks to expand its own sphere of influence to encompass former constituent states of the Soviet Union. In September, Russia and neighboring Belarus conducted the Zapad military exercises, dubbed “the biggest display of military since the cold war”. NATO has repeatedly criticized Russia for holding these exercises, which resemble a rehearsal for war with the treaty organization. Russia has also recently tested ICBMs which it says could evade anti-ballistic missile systems in Eastern Europe and South Korea.
WarLeaks – Daily Military Defense Videos & Combat Footage channel breaks down the video release…
The 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, belonging to the 48th Fighter Wing, RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom, executes safe and standard intercepts while participating in the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission. Intercepts are a regular occurrence, and U.S. Air Force pilots routinely conduct them in a safe and professional manner. The U.S. Air Force will complete its fifth rotation as the lead nation for Baltic Air Policing on Jan. 8, 2018.[00:00] Video Courtesy of NATO TV / Luca Fazzuolli U.S. Air Force F-15 pilots scramble during an exercise during the Baltic Regional Training Event at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, April 1, 2014. U.S. Air Force pilots work side-by-side with European allies and partners training to meet future security challenges. [01:39] Video Courtesy of 48th Fighter Wing U.S. Air Force F-15s from RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom, intercept two Russian Navy SU-30 Flankers in international airspace near the Baltics, Nov. 23, 2017. The intercept was initiated because the Russian aircraft did not broadcast the appropriate codes required by air traffic control and had no flight plan on file. The U.S. Air Force deployed Airmen and aircraft from RAF Lakenheath to Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, for approximately four months to conduct the NATO peacetime air policing mission. [02:01] Video Courtesy of 48th Fighter Wing Two Russian Navy SU-30 Flankers are intercepted in international airspace near the Baltics, Dec. 13, 2017. The intercept was initiated because the Russian aircraft did not broadcast the appropriate codes required by air traffic control and had no flight plan on file. Pilots from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron executed the intercept professionally and operated in international airspace in accordance with all relevant international flight regulations and safety standards. [02:44] Video Courtesy of 48th Fighter Wing / Staff Sgt. Taylor West Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd Fighter Squadron commander, provides answers to questions on intercepts and the Baltic Air Policing mission, Jan. 3, 2018.