Belgian ‘Vipers’ intercept Russian Su-30s over the Baltic

Belgian F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons were launched from Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, to intercept Russian fighter aircraft over the Baltic Sea on December 6 – within one week of the Belgian Air Force (BAF) taking over the lead of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission.

One of the two Russian Su-30 fighters is tracked by a BAF-operated F-16AM (MLU) Fighting Falcon during a QRA mission over the Baltic Sea from Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania on December 6. 
One of the two Russian Su-30 fighters is tracked by a BAF-operated F-16AM (MLU) Fighting Falcon during a QRA mission over the Baltic Sea from Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania on December 6.  Belgian Air Force

NATO closely monitors air activity near its borders and alerts and launches its fighter aircraft to visually identify unknown radar tracks, if necessary. To achieve this, NATO fighters are kept on 24/7 standby to safeguard NATO airspace and preserve territorial integrity. On December 6, NATO radars picked up unknown aircraft departing Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave and two French Air and Space Force (FASF) Mirage 2000-5Fs were alerted and readied to take-off for an identification mission. However, NATO controllers decided not to launch them and to monitor the aircraft via radar.

Instead, two BAF F-16AM/BMs were launched from Šiauliai to investigate. They tracked and identified two Russian Su-30 fighters, which had not filed flight plans and were not in contact with civilian air traffic control. The intercept was also coordinated with the Swedish Air Force. Following the intercept, the Belgian jets returned to Šiauliai. Later that same day, the FASF Mirage 2000-5Fs – which are also deployed to Šiauliai – were readied to investigate another Russian aircraft flying out of Kaliningrad, but as the situation unfolded, these aircraft again did not take off.