British and German warplanes scrambled to intercept two Russian planes and a spy plane over the Baltic Sea, in the latest tense overhead confrontation between Moscow and the West.
The German Air Force said on Twitter that Germany and Britain had sent Eurofighter Typhoons to identify two Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets that were escorting an Ilyushin Il-20 Kot-A reconnaissance plane.
Reconnaissance flights were intercepted. The German and British Eurofighters were alerted to locate three military aircraft. The Air Force said the Su-27 Flankers and IL-20 from Russia were again flying without transponder signals in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.
These intelligence aircraft are designed to absorb enemy communications and signals for analysis.
As a member of NATO, Germany participates in monitoring the airspace over the Baltic states.
Germany handed over responsibility for the air police mission in NATO’s Baltic region to Britain earlier this month. NATO allies are stepping in to protect the airspace there because Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia do not have fighter jets of their own.
Germany and Britain sent Eurofighter jets to locate two Sukhoi Su-27 fighters and one Ilyushin Il-20 (pictured)
British and German warplanes intercepted two Russian Sukhoi Su-27s (pictured)
A Russian Sukhoi Su-27 is pictured over the Baltic Sea after it was intercepted by British and German warplanes
Security has been tightened for the Baltic states after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Russian military aircraft regularly fly from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad and back, meaning such encounters are fairly routine in the region.
Indeed, Russian military aircraft have veered repeatedly in the airspace over the Baltic Sea in recent months.
On Tuesday, the Norwegian Air Force said it had similarly identified a group of Russian military aircraft in international airspace over the Barents Sea in the north of the country.
The Air Force said on Facebook that the aircraft included two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, two Il-78 Midas fuel tankers and three MiG-31 Foxhound fighter jets.
The Norwegian Air Force said on Tuesday that it had similarly located a group of Russian military aircraft, including a Tu-160 strategic missile launcher (pictured), in international airspace over the Barents Sea in the north of the country.
A Tu-160 strategic missile launcher takes flight over the neutral waters of the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea, in this still image taken from a video released Wednesday.
The pilot operates a Tu-160 strategic missile launcher during a flight over the neutral waters of the Barents and Norwegian seas
A Tu-160 strategic missile carrier bomber lands after performing a flight over the neutral waters of the Barents and Norwegian Seas, at an undisclosed location in Russia, in this still image taken from video released Wednesday.
Today’s interception is the sixth time that German and British aircraft have come into contact with Russian aircraft near NATO airspace in just two months.
Last week, British Typhoons teamed up with the German Air Force to intercept another Russian spy plane and two fighter jets over the Baltic Sea.
One of the aircraft has been identified as a Russian Air Force IL-20 Coot-A reconnaissance aircraft heading for the Russian stronghold of Kaliningrad on the border with Poland. They were escorted by Su-27 Flanker-B fighters.
It came after leaked Pentagon documents, published this month, alleged that a Russian fighter jet nearly shot down an RAF spy plane over the Black Sea last year – an incident that could have drawn Britain into the war in Ukraine.
On September 29, a Royal Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft was flying through international airspace near Russian-occupied Crimea when a squadron of Russian Su-27 fighters flew over it.
At the time, Britain’s Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, acknowledged the incident, telling Parliament that the Russian planes had “recklessly” come within 15 feet of an RAF plane, and that one had “fired a missile in the vicinity”.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu blamed a technical malfunction and Wallace, after speaking with other Russian defense officials, agreed with the explanation and drew a line under the incident.
British and German warplanes scrambled to intercept two Russian planes and a spy plane flying somewhere over the Baltic Sea.
Last week, British Typhoons teamed up with the German Air Force to intercept another Russian spy plane and two fighter jets over the Baltic Sea. Pictured: A Russian Su-27 is seen taking off from the wing of a Royal Air Force plane last week
Typhoon fighters of the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe carried out a joint mission to intercept Russian warplanes.
But leaked US military documents have now revealed that the missile launch came agonizingly close to hitting an RAF aircraft in an incident described as “almost taking down RJ UK (Rivet Joint)”.
Meanwhile, a British defense source disputed this version of events, telling MailOnline: ‘These reports contain inaccurate information and do not reflect what happened in international airspace over the Black Sea’, referring to Defense Secretary Wallace’s comments to parliament in October.
Had a Russian missile launched the Rivet Joint missile out of the sky over the Black Sea, the UK and its NATO allies might have been forced into war.
According to Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty, member states agree that an armed attack against one or more of them “shall be regarded as an attack against all of them.”
In the event of such an attack, each NATO member would assist the attacked country with whatever action it “deems necessary”.
The RAF regularly organizes sorties over the international waters of the Black Sea, as well as the Baltic Sea and eastern Poland, to gather intelligence.
The role of the Rivet Joint aircraft is to augment electronic transmissions and communications – the aircraft is also known as a “nuke-sniffer” for its ability to detect radioactivity.
British and American planes continued to conduct these reconnaissance flights after the hair-raising incident in September, but RAF reconnaissance planes are now accompanied by Typhoon fighters while the US resorts to using reconnaissance drones.
The Pentagon said a video shows a Russian fighter jet approaching the US drone from behind and starting to spew fuel as it passes by.
After engagement, the onboard camera shows a broken propeller (L) and a comparative operational propeller (R) rotating. Russia said earlier that it had no contact with the drone
Pentagon spokesman Brig. General Patrick Ryder said last month that it was important to keep the Black Sea and the skies above open to all nations.
“The Black Sea is a critical international sea passage that supports many of our NATO allies, including Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, and does not belong to any single country,” he said.
Ryder’s comments came after another air incident in which Russian jets dumped fuel and eventually crashed into a US reconnaissance drone last month.
Drone footage showed the shocking moment of the Russian Su-27 when it approached the US MQ-9 drone from behind and clipped its propeller over international airspace on March 14.
And US forces were forced to shoot down a $32 million reconnaissance drone in international waters after the standoff, sparking a race between Moscow and Washington to get it back.
Russian ships were seen at the crash site on March 15 trying to find the wreckage, although the Pentagon insisted the parts could not be recovered and any intelligence had been erased.
Moscow insisted its plane did not make contact with the drone, instead blaming “sharp maneuvers” for the crash.
But experts say it was likely an accidental clash as the Russian pilots adopted very aggressive tactics to force the drone to change course.