Tag Archives: Estonia

Spanish Typhoons “están reportando” for Baltic Air Policing

The Spanish Air Force has reported for duty at Ämari Airbase in Estonia, for their tour of the Baltic Air Policing mission. Four Eurofighter C.16 (EF2000) Typhoons from Ala 11 left Morón Airbase in the early morning of 29 December and headed north.

The Spanish detachment is a 114 men and women strong, and was during its build-up supported by a Boeing T.17 (707) of 471 Esc. from Torrejon and a Lockheed T.10 (C-130) of 311 Esc. from Zaragoza.

As of 1 January 2015 the Ejército del Aire has taken over the air defence ops in Estonia from the Luftwaffe. The Germans also flew the Eurofighters till New Year. Like with the other NATO rotations at Šiauliai in Lithuania (Italian EF2000s and Polish MiG-29s) and Malbork in Poland (Belgian F-16s) the Spanish Typhoons will operate under control of the Command Air Component NATO (AIRCOM) based at Ramstein in Germany. Main mission: to keep track of and intercept the many Russian military flights that have been showing up even inside NATO and Scandinavian airspace the last couple of years.

According to the Ejército del Aire the Spanish Typhoons deployed now have been training for their mission in November at Lanzarote. Like with many other NATO countries Spain has contributed to the Baltic Air Policing before. In 2006 four Dassault C.14s (Mirage F-1s) from Ala 14 were deployed to Lithuania. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania don’t have any fighter aircraft themselves. That’s why NATO provides the air cover to these member states, like it also does on Iceland.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

↑ See our continuing coverage of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission

Spanish Typhoon and crew preparing for departure to Northern Europe on 29 December 2014 at Morón (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Spanish Typhoon and crew preparing for departure to Northern Europe on 29 December 2014 at Morón (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Hasta la vista Morón (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Hasta la vista Morón (Image © Ejército del Aire)
A happy looking bunch about to board a Spanish Air Force T.10 (C-130) heading for Ämari in the Baltics  (Image © Ejército del Aire)
A happy looking bunch about to board a Spanish Air Force T.10 (C-130) heading for Ämari in the Baltics (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Ground and support personnel boarding the Spanish Air Force T.17 - or Boeing 707 - to bring them to Estonia (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Ground and support personnel boarding the Spanish Air Force T.17 – or Boeing 707 – to bring them to Estonia (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Two of four Spanish Typhoons reporting for duty at Ämari, Estonia, on 29 December 2014. (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Two of four Spanish Typhoons reporting for duty at Ämari, Estonia, on 29 December 2014. (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Take-off from Morón on 29 December 2014 (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Take-off from Morón on 29 December 2014 (Image © Ejército del Aire)

New guardians of the Baltic

After this week’s news of the Dutch ending their shift in the Baltic Air Policing mission, full details have emerged about contries and aircraft that will guard NATO’s north eastern flank the coming months.

As reported, Belgian F-16s will take the place of the Dutch F-16s in Malbork, Poland. Italian Eurofighter Typhoons will position themselves in Šiauliai, Lithuania, replacing Portuguese F-16s. In turn MiG-29 Fulcrums from Poland will also fly to Šiauliai, relieving Canadian CF-188 Hornets.

Finaly, Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons will fly to Ämari, Estonia, where they will take the place of German Typhoons. Meanwhile a pair of Hungarian Air Force SAAB JAS 39 Gripen jets were warming up in the 2nd week of December for their upcoming deployment in Estonia from September to December 2015.

According to sources within the Baltics, the fortified NATO mission should last at least another year, following reportedly increased Russian military air activity of late.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger

A Polish Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum-A taking off from Berlin-Schönefeld during an airshow in 2008. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Polish Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum-A seen during an airshow in 2008. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Head to head with Typhoon. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Head to head with an Italian Air Force Typhoon. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Belgian F-16s will guard Dutch skies and vice versa from 2016 on. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Belgian F-16AM. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Stick 'm up! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Stick ‘m up! (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Over 400 NATO scrambles in 2014

So far in 2014, NATO fighter jets scrambled roughly 400 times in response to increased Russian air activity near Europe, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday 20 November during a visit to Estonia. The Baltic Air Policing mission alone performed more than 100 intercepts.

The number on intercepts near the Baltics is three times higher than in 2013, while NATO scrambles in total are 50 percent higher than last year. Stoltenberg described the Russian pattern as ‘risky and unjustified’, and remarked that ‘NATO continues to remain vigilant’. On his journey to Estonia, Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16s operating from Malbork in Poland, escorted the aircraft that brought Stoltenberg to Estonia. See here for a pic.

NATO sounded the alarm bell over Russian airborne movements earlier this fall. See here for a quick round up of known intercepts. It would be interesting to know how exactly the number of 400 scrambles holds up against the yearly number of intercepts during the heights of the Cold War.

Later on Thursday, the NATO secretary general met Estonian, American and German troops at Ämari Air Base, home of part of the Baltic quick reaction alert (QRA).

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

The Russian Bear is awake, apparently. (Image © UK MoD)
The Russian Bear is awake, apparently. (Image © UK MoD)
A Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon shadows a Tu-95 Bear. (Image © UK MoD)
A Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon shadows a Tu-95 Bear. (Image © UK MoD)

Round up: Russians intercepted in 2014

Amazingly close this Su-27 comes to the Swedish Air Force S 102B Korpen, imaged released by the Swedish Signal Intelligence Authority (Image © FRA)
In July, this Russian Air Force Su-27 came amazingly close to a Swedish Air Force S 102B Gulfstream IV.
(Image © FRA)

NATO on Wednesday 29 October 2014 sounded the alarm over Russian aircraft heading out in the skies over Europe far more often recently. So far in 2014, NATO fighter aircraft conducted over 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft, which is about three times more than were conducted in 2013. A round up of known intercepts is below.

Only last week, a Russian Il-20 spy plane was caught in international airspace after it took off in Kaliningrad and headed over the Baltic Sea towards Denmark. NATO F-16s soon caught up with it. On 21 September Danish F-16s along with fighter aircraft from Finland and Sweden (both non-members of NATO but participants in the Partnership for Peace program) chased two Tu-22M Backfires and two Su-27 Flankers, while on the same day German Typhoons played cat and mouse with two Flankers near the Baltics.

A Tupolev Tu-22M3 of the type that simulated attack on Sweden during Eastern 2013 (Image © Max)
A Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire medium range  bomber. (Image © Max)

Scotland
Royal Air Force Typhoons took off from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland on 19 September, to intercept two Tu-95 Russian Bear H bombers in international airspace. Several days earlier, on Wednesday 17 September, Sweden picked up two Su-24 Fencers, which later were also shadowed by NATO aircraft.

On Thursday 28 August a Russian An-72 flew close to Helsinki, forcing the Finnish Air Force to send up F/A-18 Hornets. On 21 August, Danish, Dutch and UK fighters intercepted two Tu-95 Bears over the North Sea. The same thing happened in April.

Mainstay
In June, Royal Air Force Typhoons based in Lithuania met with four Russian Su-27s, two Tu22 Backfire bomber, one Beriev A50 Mainstay early-warning aircraft and an An-26 Curl transport aircraft.

The Beriev A-50U (No. 37), AWACS based on the Ilyushin IL-76 (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)
The Beriev A-50U, AWACS based on the Ilyushin IL-76 (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)

Body check
In July, A Russian Flanker ‘body checked’ a Swedish S-102B (Gulfstream IV) over the Baltic Sea. Another incident happened on 18 July 2014, when a US Air Force RC-135 spy plane was supposedly on the run for Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea and trespassed Swedish airspace while doing so.

NATO Air Policing
As a reply to Russian interference in Ukraine, NATO fortified the Baltic Air Policing mission in the Baltic states and Poland earlier this year. Currently, Canadian F/A-18 Hornets, Portuguese F-16s, German Eurofighter Typhoons and Dutch F-16s are involved in this mission, flying from Ämari airbase in Estonia, Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania and Malbork in Poland. Meanwhile, Czech Air Force Saab Gripens are watching the skies over Iceland.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

Like in the skies over the Baltic republics seen here over Šiauliai Airbase, the Canadian CF-188s will operate next to F-16s in Kuwait. In Lithuania it are Vipers from the Portuguese Air Force, in Kuwait it will be Fighting Falcons from the Royal Danish Air Force (Image © Cpl Gabrielle DesRochers / RCAF)
A Portuguese F-16 and a Canadian CF-18 Hornet break over Šiauliai Airbase.  (Image © Cpl Gabrielle DesRochers / RCAF)

Scandinavia joins NATO over Estonia; Russian ‘bodycheck’

Amazingly close this Su-27 comes to the Swedish Air Force S 102B Korpen, imaged released by the Swedish Signal Intelligence Authority (Image © FRA)
Amazingly close this Su-27 comes to the Swedish Air Force S 102B Korpen on 16 July 2014, imaged released by the Swedish defence signal intelligence organisation (Image © FRA)

For the first time in history Swedish fighter jets touched down on Estonian ground on 2 October 2014. Together with Finnish jets the two large Scandinavian countries started a series of air combat training with the NATO air forces of Estland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Canada and Germany. Base of operations for it all: Ämari Airbase in Estonia, which until February this year was not taken much seriously. That has all changed after Russia sent military forces into the Crimean Peninsula and Eastern Ukraine.

During the exercise the participating countries will train on intercepting other aircraft. A trick that not only NATO, Sweden and Finland, but also Russia is doing a lot these days. A Flygvapnet S 102B Korpen (Swedish Air Force Electronic Signals gathering version of the Gulfstream IVS) was almost body checked recently in international airspace over the Baltic Sea by a heavily armed Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter launched from Kaliningrad. This Russian enclave is squeezed between Lithuania and Poland. The news and photos taken by the Swedish signal intelligence organisation personnel on board the S 102B was first published by Swedish quality newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on Thursday 1 October 2014.

Finnish and Canadian Hornets at the flightline of Ämari in Estonia (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
Finnish and Canadian Hornets at the flightline of Ämari in Estonia (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)

Officially the training from Ämari is more peaceful and aimed at intercepting an aircraft with which radio contact has been lost. Part of the scenario is that the four Swedish JAS 39C Gripen fighters and at least a pair of Finnish F-18s make the first interception and then transfer the responsibility to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP). During the exercise the BAP is provided by a pair of Portuguese Air Force F-16s, a pair of Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188s and up to four German Air Force EF2000s. A single Estonian L-410 transport aircraft is the “catch” during the exercise, which has given its crew excellent photo opportunities of the intercepting fighter aircraft.

The Luftwaffe Eurofighters are temporarily based in Estonia for the BAP mission, while the RCAF Hornets and Força Aérea Portuguesa Fighting Falcons flew over from their BAP base in Lithuania for the duration of the exercise. All fighters, including the Swedish Gripens return to their forward operation bases or homebases after the day’s exercise to join the action again the next day. For the Swedes that means RTB Ronneby, near the main naval base of Karlskrona in the southeast of the country.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

Check all our reports on the Baltic Air Policing Mission

Swedish Gripens, Portuguese F-16s and Canadian Hornets on the ground at Ämari (Image © Kent Löving / Försvarsmakten)
Swedish Gripens, Portuguese F-16s and Canadian Hornets on the ground at Ämari
(Image © Kent Löving / Försvarsmakten)
A Finnish Air Foce F-18C over the vastness of the Baltic sea coast (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
A Finnish Air Foce F-18C over the vastness of the Baltic sea coast (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
A German Air Force EF2000 photographed from an Estonian L-410 (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
A German Air Force EF2000 photographed from an Estonian L-410 (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
The skies over Estonia seen from the Estonian L-410 (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
The skies over Estonia seen from the Estonian L-410 (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
A Finnish Air Force F-18A photographed from the L-410 (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
A Finnish Air Force F-18C photographed from the L-410 (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
The Estonian L-410 on the ground at Ämari (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
The Estonian L-410 on the ground at Ämari (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
Close up of a German Air Force EF2000 seen from the Estonian L-410 (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)
Close up of a German Air Force EF2000 seen from the Estonian L-410 (Image © Eesti Kaitsevägi)