Two Dutch F-35 fighters intercepted a formation of three Russian military aircraft over Poland and escorted them out late Monday, the Netherlands’ Defence Ministry said in a statement.
“The then unknown aircraft approached the Polish NATO area of responsibility from Kaliningrad,” the ministry said, according to Reuters.
Kaliningrad is a Russian exclave located between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast, which also hosts a crucial military air base for Moscow.
“After identification, it turned out to be three aircraft: A Russian IL-20M Coot-A that was escorted by two Su-27 Flankers. The Dutch F-35s escorted the formation from a distance and handed over the escort to NATO partners,” the Dutch ministry’s statement added.
The Il-20M Coot-A is NATO’s reporting name for the Russian Ilyushin Il-20M reconnaissance aircraft while the Su-27 Flankers are NATO’s reporting name for the Sukhoi Su-28 fighter aircraft.
“Dutch F-35 stationed at the 22nd Tactical Air Base in Malbork was scrambled on Monday in order to identify and intercept three Russian aircraft that were operating near Polish airspace,” the Polish defence ministry told Politico, adding that the fighters were operating over international waters and “none of the airspace has been interrupted.”
The incident comes just days after tensions heightened between Russia and NATO amid the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine after a Russian missile came close to entering NATO member Romania’s airspace.
Russia’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Netherlands’ Defence Ministry said that eight Dutch F-35s are stationed in Poland for February and March.
The Polish defence ministry said the operation was “standard” as a part of NATO Enhanced Air Policing, which is inspecting the eastern flank of the military alliance. (ANI)