February 26. 2024. 5:34

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Russian aircraft intercepted near Polish border

Two Dutch F-35 fighters intercepted a formation of three Russian military aircraft near Poland and escorted them out, the Dutch Defence Ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

The aircraft included the Russian Il-20M Coot-A that was escorted by two fighter jets, SU-27 Flanker, after approaching the Polish NATO area from Kaliningrad, the Dutch government said on Tuesday.

“The Dutch F-35s escorted the formation from a distance and handed over the escort to NATO partners,” a statement from the Defence Ministry reads.

The Il-20M Coot-A is NATO’s reporting name for the Russian Ilyushin Il-20M reconnaissance aircraft. Its presence near Polish airspace was confirmed by the Polish Defence Ministry, which insisted that the fighters were operating over international waters and “none of the airspaces has been interrupted.”

Eight Dutch F-35s are stationed from February until April to monitor the airspace over NATO’s eastern flank.

Four are available at the 22nd Tactical Air Base in Malbork in northern Poland and are ready to be scrambled to intercept foreign aircraft that are identified as approaching NATO’s airspace. Two other fighters are kept in reserve for the same task.

The operation was “standard” practice, forming part of NATO Enhanced Air Policing, inspecting the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Alliance, Warsaw said.

The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to the request for comment on the incident, days after another Russian missile came close to the airspace of NATO member Romania.

(Aleksandra Krzysztoszek | EURACTIV.pl)