A Russian IL-20 intelligence collection aircraft was detected on Tuesday, 21 October, in the vicinity of the NATO airspace over the Baltic Sea heading from Kaliningrad towards Denmark, NATO sources reported.
© DELFI (M.Bajarūno nuotr.)

Denmark's fighters were scrambled to identify the aircraft and ensure the security of the NATO airspace, then Sweden, a non-NATO ally, also used its fighter jets to intercept the Russian aircraft, Lithuania's Ministry of National Defence said.

When the Russian plane headed south towards Estonia, Portugal's F-16s currently conducting the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission intervened to intercept and escort the aircraft away from the NATO airspace.

It was reported that the Russian aircraft had made make a short intrusion into the airspace of Estonia over the island of Saaremaa, which prompted the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs giving a protest note to the Ambassador of Russia.

According to the NATO release, scrambles and intercepts are standard procedure when an unknown aircraft approaches NATO airspace (with no flight plans filed or not using on-board transponders). Such flights pose a potential risk to civil aviation even if no incursion occurs: civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft nor ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.

The activity of Russian military aircraft has visibly increased near the Baltic airspace, which also applies to Russia's military aircraft breaching ICAO regulations near the boundary of the Baltic airspace.

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