British fighters intercepted Russian jets twice this weekend, as NATO conducts war games in the Baltics
- British Royal Air Force jets intercepted Russian fighters over the Baltics on Friday and Saturday.
- With the latest encounters, the UK has intercepted Russian aircraft in the region eight times since May.
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The UK Ministry of Defense said Monday that the Royal Air Force had intercepted Russian fighters twice over the weekend, bringing the number of such encounters to eight since the British took over NATO's Baltic air-policing mission on May 3.
On June 14, RAF Typhoon jets intercepted a Russian SU-30 fighter just north of Estonia, where two days prior the US and Spain performed an amphibious landing exercise as part of the Baltic Operations war games.
The British aircraft are stationed at Amari air base in Estonia, and this year's BaltOps exercises run through June 21 out of the port of Kiel in Germany.
"We were scrambled to intercept a contact close to Estonian airspace in the early evening, between two periods of poor weather. Shortly after getting airborne we came alongside a SU-30 Flanker fighter aircraft. We escorted the fighter over the Baltic sea, around Estonia and passing over another Russian military transport aircraft in the process," an RAF pilot on duty at the time said in a press release.
On June 15, British pilots again scrambled to intercept a Russian SU-30 Flanker fighter and an Ilyushin IL-76 Candid transport aircraft headed from Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic coast, toward Finnish and Estonian airspace.
According to a pilot on duty, the RAF escorted the aircraft toward mainland Russia, working with the Finnish air force to complete the mission.
NATO aircraft have carried out the Baltic air-policing mission since 2004, when the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined the alliance. Those countries do not have combat aircraft.
The number of encounters between NATO and Russia aircraft in the region has increased in recent years. There were similar incidents in May, when the US Air Force scrambled twice in two days to respond to Russian aircraft flying in the air-defense identification zone near Alaska.
Russia has been accused of jamming GPS signals during NATO's Trident Juncture war games - the alliance's largest since the end of the Cold War - in Norway in the fall. Russia denied that and on Saturday claimed that NATO countries at BaltOps were conducting "radio-electronic warfare" by interfering with navigational signals.