Pilots intervene five times against Russian aircraft in Baltics | info.cz

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Pilots intervene five times against Russian aircraft in Baltics

Pilots intervene five times against Russian aircraft in Baltics

Czech JAS-39 Gripen pilots had to identify non-communicating aircraft and intervene five times, always against Russian military aircraft, in the first month of their air policing mission over the Baltics, the General Staff said.

Each flight has confirmed our interest in the security of Estonia and the whole of the Baltics," Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar said.

"Our pilots fulfil the basic principle of NATO, which is collective defence, in practice," he added.

The first sortie, called Alfa Scramble, was ordered by the command in the German town Uedem just a few days before the Czechs accepted the operational task.

As a result, a training flight turned into a sortie and after being guided to the sphere of contact, the pilots intercepted a Russian An-30 plane.

In next weeks, further sorties were ordered for the pilots waiting at the Estonian Amari air force base.

In two cases, a tandem of Czech Gripens intercepted the aircraft which did not have transponders on, thus breaching the safety rules for flights on civilian routes.

In another case, there was a transport plane without a valid flight plan. It was then escorted by the two fighters.

The fifth sortie occurred at the end of last week, when Czech fighters intercepted a transport plane which did not communicate the air traffic command.

"The statistics of the first month of the 3rd task force of the Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia has proven the necessity of our presence in the region," Czech Chief of Staff Ales Opata said.

"With our efforts, we confirm to our allies that we are fully trained and prepared to take part in the joint fulfilment of allied tasks," he added.

The Czech air force aircraft in the Baltics are equipped with standard armaments also used within air policing in the Czech Republic. These are guided missiles, an inbuilt cannon and the countermeasure "flares" infrared guidance missiles.

The Czech pilots in Estonia are commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Pavlik who has flown around 1,000 flight hours with the JAS-39 Gripen.

The Czech contingent in Estonia operates within a NATO mission protecting the air space of the Baltic countries which do not have supersonic aircraft of their own.

Along with Czechs, the Belgian and Danish F-16 fighters take part in the air policing from the Lithuanian base Siauliai.

Based on a parliament resolution, five Gripens and 70 soldiers were sent to Estonia. Czechs started their mission on September 1, 2019. It will last until December 31, 2019, when they will be replaced by another NATO member.

Czech JAS-39 Gripen fighters already defended the air space in the Baltics twice, in 2009 and 2012. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, Czech fighters were on an air policing mission over Iceland.

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