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Russian military aircraft made 266 'blind' flights near Estonia this year

NATO military jets at the Ämari airbase near Tallinn
NATO military jets at the Ämari airbase near Tallinn Source: Courtesy of the Defense Forces

Russian military airplanes caused 266 incidents this year, which jets from Ämari airbase have had to respond to.

There have been two border violations this year, but Russian military aircraft have flown in the proximity of Estonia 266 times this year with their transponders switched off, ETV's “Pealtnägija” reported.

“An incident is one where a non-NATO military aircraft flies over the Gulf of Finland or the Baltic Sea in neutral airspace, lacking a flight plan, transponder or two-way radio contact with air traffic control,” Mayor Hardi Lämmergas, head of air surveillance at Ämari, said.

He said an air surveillance operator must then calculate the path of the aircraft and if that is less than a minute away from Estonian borders, then fighter jets from Ämari, Sweden and Finland take off to identify the flying object and deter it.

Lämmergas said that when he began on air surveillance in 2003, there were such incidents in the dozens each year, while now it can happen 10 times a day.

The Russian jet shot down over Syria and Turkey a few weeks ago also had its transponders switched off.

Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian airspace have been protected by rotating NATO forces as part of the Baltic Air Policing mission ever since the three Baltic states joined NATO in March 2004.

Four NATO planes are based at Ämari Air Base in Estonia and four at the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania.

Editor: J.M. Laats

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