Two Russian fighter jets and a surveillance aircraft backed off after being intercepted over the Baltic Sea by British and German fighters on Wednesday, April 26th, the Luftwaffe and the RAF reported.
According to the German Air Force, the two Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets and the Il-20M surveillance aircraft, all belonging to the Russian Air Force, were “again flying without transponder signals,” something that NATO pilots have gotten used to lately.
The three aircraft were intercepted by the British and German fighters in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, although dangerously close to Estonian airspace. Since Estonia doesn’t have any fighter jets on its own, it has to rely on other NATO members to police its airspace.
For the past eight months, it was specifically the German Air Force’s job to patrol the Baltic region. At the beginning of April, the British Royal Air Force took over from the Luftwaffe for another extended mission of NATO air surveillance around the Baltic countries bordering Russia. However, the Germans opted to remain by the side of the Brits for a short transitional period, until the end of the month.
This is not the first time NATO fighters scrambled to force Russian jets to back off in recent weeks. Last month, German and British fighters intercepted a Russian Il-78 Midas refueling aircraft flying with its transponders off in Estonian airspace between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad.
Also, Russia is not the only country that likes to play dangerously in the region. Recently, the United States sent two B-52 nuclear bombers to fly over the eastern flank of NATO as a show of force—one only 200 kilometers from St. Petersburg, the other directly on the Russian border—further increasing the tensions.
The bombers could also have been deployed as a response to another, more notorious incident which happened over the Black Sea, just south of Ukrainian airspace. As we reported last month, a Russian fighter jet approached a U.S. reconnaissance UAV, drenching the drone in fuel which scrambled its navigational instruments and left it crashing into the sea.