Russian spy planes tracked by NATO over Baltic

While the Russian spy planes did not violate NATO airspace, their presence near allied borders prompted the precautionary interception for identification and monitoring in line with standard air policing procedures.

In a tense aerial drama playing out with increasing frequency over the Baltic region, NATO fighter jets scrambled to intercept a pair of Russian spy planes operating near alliance airspace.

The Norwegian and Portuguese air force fighters were summoned to visually identify and monitor the two Ilyushin Il-20 reconnaissance turboprops as they conducted their intelligence-gathering mission, skirting NATO borders in the latest aerial standoff between the Western alliance and Moscow.

While the Russian spy planes did not violate NATO airspace, their presence near allied borders prompted the precautionary interception for identification and monitoring in line with standard air policing procedures.

NATO has reported a sharp spike in aerial intercepts and detection of Russian reconnaissance planes, early warning radars, Russian Spy Planes Tracked by NATO Over the Baltic, and other assets deployed near the Baltic states and around the military buildup in Belarus over the past year as tensions with Moscow have soared.

The flights are widely seen as efforts to probe NATO’s vigilance and readiness in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Alliance officials say they are determined to send an unmistakable signal of their commitment to collective defence amid fears the conflict could spill over borders.

As the engagement played out, the AWACS crew maintained radio contact with the NATO fighters as they closed within visual range of the twin-prop Russian turboprops but avoided any provocative manoeuvres.

In a separate incident on Sunday, NATO F-35 stealth fighters assigned to the Baltic Air Policing mission intercepted a Russian Ilyushin Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft operating near the Danish island of Bornholm.

While most such encounters remain routine, NATO officials warn there is always the potential for misunderstandings that could rapidly escalate in the tense environment around the Ukraine conflict. Both sides have accused the other of provocative actions in the skies.