F-35s face Russian fighters in the skies over the Baltic states
FRANCE, (BM) – In September 2020, Aeronautica Militare [Italian Air Force] deployed four Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets in Siauliai [Lithuania] as part of NATO’s air policing mission in the Baltic Sea.
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In the last eight months, the Italian team has flown about 900 flight hours and about 40 alpha scramble flights to intercept and identify aircraft – primarily Russian – approaching Baltic Sea airspace.
This Italian mission, called “Baltic Thunder,” ended on April 30 with the surrender of a Spanish squad, also equipped with four Eurofighter Typhoons.
However, Aeronautica Militare will continue to be involved in the Baltic Sea Air Police Mission. It has just taken over from the Luftwaffe [German Air Force, note], which has sent six Eurofighter EF2000s to Amari, Estonia. But with one peculiarity, as the German planes were relieved by four F-35As of 13 ° Gruppo [squadron] of 32 ° Stormo [squadron], usually based in Amendola [southern Italy].
However, this is the first time that the F-35A will carry out air police missions to benefit the Baltic States. “This first deployment of fifth-generation aircraft shows how NATO’s air force is adapting to the mission, using modern technology for sustainable missions,” welcomed NATO’s Allied Air Command [AAC].
However, in September 2019, as part of an Icelandic air police mission, Aeronautica Militaire deployed six F-35As in Keflavik [Iceland] to protect Icelandic airspace there for several weeks. And so it became the first air force to engage this type of aircraft in a NATO mission and did it again back in May 2020.
During this second term, 13 ° Grupo aircraft had to conduct only one “alpha skirmish” to intercept, at the request of NATO air operations control [CAOC, based in Uedem, Germany], a formation of three Russian naval patrols. Tu-142 aircraft.
But things will be different in the Baltic region, as seen by Eurofighter’s transalpine activities in Lithuania over the past eight months. In addition, for this type of mission, the Italian F-35A will use radar reflectors and amplifiers RCS [Radar Cross Section], and the stealth is of no use to the celestial police. But there is no doubt that Russia’s capabilities in electromagnetic intelligence will be on the alert.
However, this is not the first time the F-35A has taken to the Estonian skies. In 2017, planes from the 34th Fighter Squadron of the US Air Force paid a short visit to Amari as part of a European “tour.”
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