Lithuania’s Defence Ministry said that NATO jets patrolling airspace over the Baltic Countries scrambled 160 times to intercept Russian planes in 2015, up 14% on the previous year.
The number of times jets were scrambled last year was up on the 140 occasions in 2014, according to the Ministry. Russian military aircraft activity over the Baltic Sea has significantly increased since 2014 amid a heightening of tensions between Moscow and western countries over Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Spain and Belgium’s air forces will take over responsibility for the NATO mission to protect Baltic airspace from incursions this week from NATO members Hungary and Germany.
Spain will lead the Baltic Air Policing mission for the first four months of 2016 with four Eurofighter Typhoon jets based at Šiauliai, Lithuania. Four Belgian F-16 fighter jets will be based at the Ämari airbase in Estonia. NATO said the mission was focused on stopping incursions into NATO airspace and on preventing acts of air terrorism.
Nato allies take up the air patrol responsibilities over the Baltic countries on a four-month rotation.