NATO claims it scrambled its air forces across Europe more than 400 times this year to intercept unknown aircraft approaching the alliance’s airspace. They were mainly from Russia.
In its statement of December 28, North Atlantic Alliance specified that almost 90 percent of the missions were targeted to intercept flights by Russian military aircraft. The total figure for this year is a slight increase from the previous year.
NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu pointed that for recent years an increased level of Russian military air activity close to the alliance’s borders is observed.
“We are always vigilant. NATO fighter jets are on duty around the clock, ready to scramble in case of suspicious or unannounced flights near the airspace of our allies” she added. According to NATO’s official, air policing is an important way in which NATO provides security for its members.
NATO said that Russian military aircraft often do not provide a transponder code that specify their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate with air-traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to civilian airliners.
Across European territory the alliance has about 40 air-surveillance radars and reporting hubs. There are also about 60 NATO jets being on duty twenty-four seven to ensure a quick-response force for aircraft breaking down or violating international flying rules near NATO airspace.
Since 2004, NATO also has operated a Baltic air-policing mission for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as air-policing coverage for allies in the Western Balkans who do not have fighter jets of their own.