Air traffic control chief: “invisible” Russian military aircraft the major threat to safety

NATO fighter jets patrolling and protecting Baltic airspace had to respond 12 times on Tuesday in reaction to Russian military aircraft flying near the Latvian border. (AFP/Scanpix)
12/17/2014 1:59 PM
Category: Politics

The high number of Russian military aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea airspace is not a problem, but flying without a flight plan, switched of transponders and without radio contact is a threat to safety.

“The number of flights is no threat. It is a great deal of effort but these flights have been going on as long as Estonia has been independent,” head of the air control department at the Estonian Air Navigation Services, Üllar Salumäe, told ERR radio.

“We classify dangerous flights as ones where one of the three elements is missing, or in a worst case scenario, all are missing,” he said, speaking about the lack of a flight plan, working transponder and ignoring radio contact.

He said spy planes IL-20s usually do not switch on transponders.

Estonian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Janek Lehiste said the entire arsenal of the Russian air force has been seen over the Baltic Sea, adding that it includes fighter jets, attack planes, strategic bombers. He said only the Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic bomber has not been sighted.

NATO has recently reported sighting 30 types of Russian military aircraft over the area with a number of near misses also recorded.

R. Kooli, J.M. Laats, S. Tambur

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