U.S. Air Forces in Europe released video footage on Friday of what they deem to be a set of safe and standard intercepts of Russian aircraft in the skies above the Baltic Sea.
The clips show two intercepts, one recorded on Nov. 23 and the other on Dec. 13, of two Russian Navy SU-30 Flankers flying in formation in international airspace near the Baltic States of Eastern Europe.
While the footage is an excellent display of American airpower in full force, the F-15 pilots who conducted the intercepts should not cause concern. That’s because Russian jets frequently fly to and from Russian airbases in the region, especially the isolated territory of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.
“Intercepts are a normal part of the Baltic air policing mission,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Cody Blake, commander of the 493rd Fighter Squadron. “They don’t necessary happen on a day-to-day basis, but it is a routine thing and they’re always conducted in a safe and professional manner.”
The Russian Flankers were intercepted because they did not broadcast the appropriate procedures required by air traffic control, and because there was no flight plan on file, according to U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
The F-15s, and their aircrews, are from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron stationed at RAF Lakenheath in England. Their deployment to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania was part of one of the largest air-policing rotations in the mission’s history, according to Stars and Stripes.
17 NATO countries have participated in these missions, since 2004, over several Eastern European countries such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, whose militaries don’t use fighter jets.
NATO requires at least two warplanes to be on standby every minute of every day during the deployment to respond to such mission requirements, like intercepting unresponsive Russian aircraft.