A press conference held by Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez and Lithuanian President Nosida at a Lithuanian military airport had to be abruptly interrupted. Reason: Behind them, a NATO fighter jet started the engines for an emergency operation in the hangar to intercept two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 jets that had breached Lithuanian airspace.
Pedro Sanchez, 49, and Gitanas Nauseda, 57, first looked back in amazement and then cleared the field. Aides rushed over and set aside microphones and flags to make way for the fighter plane. “We have the start of an alarm” can be heard from the background before the press conference ends.
In the air in less than 15 minutes
According to a Lithuanian army spokesman, the two Russian planes were flying without electronic identity in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. The spokesman said that the two Russian pilots did not submit a flight plan and did not conduct radio communication with air traffic control. This is why combat aircraft maneuver an interceptor in order to see and identify the machines.
“You see, everything is working great. I can confirm that the interceptor is less than 15 minutes,” Nosida said, according to Radio Lithuania, after resuming the press conference, which had been interrupted for about half an hour. “He showed us that,” says Noseda, according to Radio Lithuania. Clearly, our air traffic control is working.” Sanchez adds: “This is a real case that shows the importance of our presence here.” Sanchez.
No air force of its own
According to Lithuanian information, seven Eurofighter fighters and 130 soldiers from Spain are currently deployed in Siauliai to monitor the airspace over the Baltic states. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not have their own air forces. For this reason, NATO has been securing the military bases in Omari (Estonia) and Siuliai (Lithuania) from the airspace of the Baltic Sea since 2004.
To this end, the Allies regularly transport combat aircraft and soldiers to the Baltic republics bordering Russia. If Russian planes approach the borders of the Baltic states without revealing their identity, NATO gives the order to start an alarm riot.
This consists of two armed combat aircraft that must be in the air within 15 minutes – this is NATO’s requirement to trigger the Alpha Scramble.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that the air defense aircraft legally completed a maneuver over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea. The ministry in Moscow said no boundaries had been violated. (gf)