Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

NATO and Russia in game of cat and mouse in Baltic skies
By Michel MOUTOT
Siauliai, Lithuania (AFP) Jan 6, 2017

French jets have been engaged in a game of cat and mouse with Russian fighters in the skies above the Baltic states, as NATO keeps a close eye on Russia's ambitions.

Four French Mirage jets this week completed a four-month tour of duty in Lithuania -- and their crews were busy, engaging with Russian planes on 23 occasions.

"We use the term 'intercept' but it is better to say 'identify' and 'observe'," Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Diakite told AFP at the base in the freezing surroundings of Siauliai in northern Lithuania.

"The Russians take care to remain in international airspace, flying along the Baltic area without going into it. They have a right to be there, but so do we," he said.

"So we take off to have a look, identify the plane and photograph it, to show we're there."

Russian planes have been flying close to NATO's northern border for several years now, and the number of flights increased after the Ukrainian crisis started in 2014.

"It's a little game, a demonstration of strength to show that they are back after their fleet underwent large-scale modernisation," said General Olivier Taprest, commander of France's aerial defence, who took part in a ceremony in Siauliai to mark the end of the deployment.

NATO radars regularly pick up Russian Sukhoi fighter-bombers, Antonov transport planes and strategic long-range Tupolev bombers crossing the so-called Omega Line, NATO's self-imposed line that runs from the north of Norway. Crossing it triggers alerts at NATO bases and planes are scrambled.

Tupolev bombers were spotted three times in the final months of 2016, flying over the Baltic states and to the west of the British Isles.

A year earlier, in November 2015, Tupolevs were even recorded flying around Ireland and across the Mediterranean to drop bombs in Syria before heading back to Russia through Iranian airspace.

It was done, the French officers said, merely as a show of force to the Americans.

"It was completely useless from a tactical point of view, but it sent a message: if you calculate the distance flown, it shows you could reach New York," General Taprest said.

- Guard dogs -

NATO's jets are rather like guard dogs kept behind a fence, without ever actually biting or even barking -- their presence is to show Moscow that the transatlantic alliance will defend its members' skies and approaching the limits of that will provoke a reaction.

The procedure is strictly ordered.

The two "intercept" jets first fly to within a kilometre (half a mile) behind the "bogey", as an unidentified plane is called. Then one of them moves next to the wing of the target at a distance of between 300 metres (yards) and 50 metres.

The aim, clearly, is to let the pilot know he is being watched.

"If it's night-time, we shine a light into their cockpit," one of the French pilots, who wanted to be identified only by his nickname "Rom's", told AFP.

"Sometimes they respond with their decoy flare, sometimes they don't. Then we switch to autopilot to allow us to take photographs which are then sent to the military command."

If the Russian plane does not deviate from its course and remains in international airspace, no further action is taken.

However, if the plane intrudes into NATO airspace, the response ratchets up in several steps, starting with the firing of a decoy flare until actual warning shots are fired. The final response would be launching a missile to down the plane.

"We can try to contact the Russian pilot over the radio on the aeronautical emergency frequency. Sometimes they reply," Rom's said.

When pilots fly side-by-side at a distance of 50 metres, they can see each other up close and can even signal to one another.

"But most of the time they don't look at us. They have their path to follow and they don't deviate from it," he added.

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Russian Marines in smashing Philippine charm offensive
Manila (AFP) Jan 5, 2017
Russian Marines shattered glass bottles with their heads and smashed burning wooden planks against each other Thursday as part of an eye-catching charm offensive in the Philippines, a traditional US ally. The camouflage-clad Marines showed off their pistol-shooting, knife-fighting and martial arts skills to the Filipino public in Manila's central park as part of a "goodwill visit" spearheade ... read more

Emerging tech aims to improve life for handicapped

Hubble provides interstellar road map for Voyagers' galactic trek

NASA Assigns Upcoming Space Station Crew Members

Tech outlook dampened by political uncertainty

China's carrier rocket puts 3 satellites in space in first commercial mission

GMV invests in PLD Space

Arianespace to launch JCSAT-17 for SKY Perfect JSAT

Arianespace looks to the future with confidence

Hues in a Crater Slope

3-D images reveal features of Martian polar ice caps

Odyssey recovering from precautionary pause in activity

Small Troughs Growing on Mars May Become 'Spiders'

China Space Plan to Develop "Strength and Size"

Beijing's space program soars in 2016

China Plans to Launch 1st Mars Probe by 2020 - State Council Information Office

China to expand int'l cooperation on space sciences

OneWeb announces key funding from SoftBank Group and other investors

Airbus DS and Energia eye new medium-class satellite platform

Space as a Driver for Socio-Economic Sustainable Development

SoftBank delivers first $1 bn of Trump pledge, to space firm

Artisan 3D radar completes sea trials

Airbus supplying multi-mode radar for Coast Guard cutter

Patent Awarded to Design and 3D Print Rocket Fuel

Southwestern alumna becomes orbital debris scientist at NASA

Hubble detects 'exocomets' taking the plunge into a young star

Between a rock and a hard place: can garnet planets be habitable

The blob can learn and teach

Searching a sea of 'noise' to find exoplanets - using only data as a guide

Flying observatory makes observations of Jupiter previously only possible from space

York U research identifies icy ridges on Pluto

Exploring Pluto and the Wild Back Yonder

Juno Captures Jupiter 'Pearl'

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement