Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Canadian fighter jets intercept Russian military aircraft

An RCAF CF-18 Hornet , right, and a Portuguese F-16 fly over a former Soviet air base as part of NATO\'s mission protecting the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from Russian intruders.
Canadian CF-18 Hornet fighter jets armed with Sidewinder missiles intercepted a Russian air force aircraft over the Baltic Sea, the RCAF revealed Monday.
The drama took place Sept. 11 in international air space, Lt.-Col. David Pletz said in an interview. The Canadian warplanes flew beside a Russian An-26, looked into the cockpit and then followed the potential intruder for several minutes, said Pletz,  the commander of the detachment of four CF-18s based in Lithuania and head of the Canadian air task force.
“We flew out, provided identification of the aircraft and then changed to a shadow mission,” Pletz said. “We hung back and made sure they stayed away from Baltic air space.”
Canada began its first NATO air policing mission in the Baltics in late August with a four-month deployment to protect Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian airspace.

The air policing force was established 10 years ago but was quadrupled after Russian forces seized Crimea from Ukraine in March and then launched attacks in eastern Ukraine, causing tensions to soar across Eastern Europe. Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany also are participating in the beefed-up rotation.
“We’ve noticed an increase in Russian air activity around Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia,” said Lt.-Col. Vidmantis Raklevicius, commander of the former Soviet air base now used by the Canadians. “All of the detachments have been busy with intercepts. It is a clear message to the Russians that NATO is committed. NATO cares about all its members, no matter how small or what their capabilities.”
The Canadians in Lithuania were aware of political discussions in Ottawa that might result in CF-18s being deployed to join the U.S.-led coalition bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria. If that happens fresh air crews scheduled to replace those in Lithuania next month might be sent elsewhere and those here could conceivably be extended until Canada’s commitment to the air policing mission lasts until early January.

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