Flurry over the Baltic

Danish F-16s intercepted a string of four Russian reconnaissance aircraft skirting NATO airspace in quick succession over the Baltic on Monday. Several unannounced flights per month are not uncommon, but a Lithuanian defense ministry spokeswoman, Ugne Naujokaityte, expressed consternation at the sharp escalation in activity in a single day. “The intensity of these Russian planes’ flights raises concern. It proves once again the importance and necessity of the NATO air police mission in Baltic states,” Naujokaityte told AFP. Flying from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, a TU-134 and two AN-26s—often used as intelligence platforms—skimmed Lithuania’s exclusive zone, remaining just within international airspace. A single IL-20 reconnaissance plane was intercepted and trailed flying the opposite direction on the same path. Detached to Siauliai AB, Lithuania, as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, the Danish jets arrived Nov. 1, relieving French Air Force Mirages.