NATO fighters scrambled to intercept two Russian military aircraft near allied airspace over the Baltic Sea during a single back-to-back sortie from Ämari AB, Estonia, earlier this week, Royal Air Force officials announced. Estonian controllers detected a lone Russian Il-20M “Coot A” electronic intelligence aircraft flying without a flight plan tracking along allied airspace on June 8, according to the RAF release. Two RAF Eurofighter Typhoons, deployed to Estonia as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, scrambled to intercept and identify the aircraft. Shortly after the intercept, controllers re-directed the fighters to identify a second aircraft heading toward Lithuanian airspace from Kaliningrad, identifying it as a Russian An-26 transport, according to the release. “This is the fourth intercept tasking we have had,” said detachment boss RAF Wing Commander Stu Smiley. RAF Typhoons and Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s rotated to Ämari on May 1, and will provide allied air cover for the Baltic States through August, according to a second release.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.