Russian Spy Plane Violates NATO Air Space

Portuguese F-16s of Squadron 201A Russian maritime spy plane flew into Estonian territory on Tuesday in the most serious violation of Nato airspace by Moscow since the end of the cold war.

Fighters were scrambled from Lithuania – where Nato’s Baltic air policing force is stationed – and from Denmark and Sweden as the aircraft, an Ilyushin 20 “coot”, armed with an array of high-tech surveillance and electronic warfare equipment, circled the Baltic sea.

Two military officials with knowledge of the incident said that Nato sovereign airspace had been violated.

An Estonian official said the Russian spy plane flew more than 500m into Estonian airspace for about a minute on Tuesday close to the large, inhabited islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa off the Baltic state’s west coast.According to a Nato military officer, the spy plane took off from Kaliningrad. . . .

The spy plane was intercepted and escorted out of Estonian airspace by Portuguese F-16 fighters, based in Lithuania as part of Nato’s Baltic air policing mission.

Estonia has reported five previous airspace violations by Russia but all have been above the tiny uninhabited island of Vaindloo, located in the middle of the Gulf of Finland. Although viewed seriously by Tallinn, such incidents, unlike the latest violation, have not been a cause of serious alarm among Nato chiefs.

Image: Portuguese F-16s of Squadron 201 (photo: Portuguese Air Force)