Oct 23, 2014
NATO Fighters scrambled as Russian spy plane violates Estonian air space
The NATO’s radars detected an unidentified plane flying near NATO airspace in the Baltic Sea at about 9 a.m. CET on Tuesday. Danish F-16 fighter jets were scrambled, as were Portuguese F-16s that were part of NATO’s air policing mission over the Baltics. They were assisted by fighters from Sweden.
The Russian plane, an IL-20 intelligence collection aircraft, took off from Kaliningrad and flew over the Baltic Sea toward Denmark, NATO said, and it was met by aircraft from the three nations. As the IL-20 turned and headed south, it began approaching the airspace of Estonia, a NATO member.
The Russian aircraft entered Estonian airspace near the island of Saaremaa for less than one minute, an incursion of about 600 meters, NATO said. Portuguese F-16s made visual contact with the IL-20 and escorted it away from NATO airspace.
Russian officials denied the assertion. The Russian Defense Ministry told local news agencies that the plane had not violated Estonian airspace and was on a routine training mission from Kaliningrad in international airspace.
It’s standard procedure for NATO planes to scramble and intercept any unknown aircraft that approach NATO airspace. The Alliance said in a statement Wednesday that such flights are potentially dangerous, because Russian military planes often don't file flight plans or use their onboard transponders, leaving civilian air traffic control operators unable detect them or ensure they don't interfere with civilian air traffic.