Escalation Risk? Hours After USAF Drone Downed, NATO Jets Intercept Russian Planes Over Baltic

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Fighter jets from the UK’s Royal Air Force and the German air force intercepted a Russian strategic tanker on Tuesday, it has been revealed, just hours after the USAF lost a drone in a confrontation with Russian jets over the Black Sea.

Eurofighter Typhoon jets from the United Kingdom and Germany assigned to the joint NATO Baltic air policing mission in northern Europe were scrambled Tuesday to intercept a Russian military aircraft near Estonia which failed to respond to Estonian air traffic control, the Ministry of Defence said Wednesday.

The NATO jets visually identified and escorted the Ilyushin Il-78 air-refueling tanker, which was flying from the Russian mainland to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave state in Europe between Poland and Lithuania formerly known as Konigsberg. After the intercept, the jets then escorted another Russian aircraft, an Antonov An-148 airliner.

In a Ministry of Defence statement seen by Breitbart London, a Royal Air Force pilot described the scramble to intercept the Russian aircraft, saying: “We were scrambled to intercept an aircraft that was approaching Estonian airspace. We identified and monitored it as it transited close to NATO airspace… Any aircraft that are not communicating with Air Traffic Control or on a recognised flight plan will be intercepted by us to ensure we know who they are and maintain flight safety for all airspace users.”

The interception came just hours after an unmanned USAF aircraft — a Reaper drone — was lost in the Baltic. The United States accused the Russian air force of downing the recon and attack drone by flying aggressively near it, dumping jet fuel onto it, and by coming into contact with the drone’s propeller, causing it to lose power and crash into the sea.

Furthermore, the U.S. accused the Russians of acting in an environmentally unsound manner because of their tactic of dumping aviation fuel from their own tanks onto the drone — possibly to try and cause a fire or to confuse optical sensors.

The Russian ambassador was subsequently summoned by the U.S., but Russia has insisted on its innocence in the matter, stating the drone crashed by itself without help from its fighters while acting aggressively towards what they claim as Russian airspace.

There are risks of escalation associated with bringing down equipment like Reaper drones, even though no U.S. lives were lost in the incident. There was nearly a retaliatory strike on Iran which, it is claimed, could have killed hundreds after the Iranian military brought down a Reaper drone in 2019. But the attack was called off at the last minute after President Trump weighed that killing a large number of people in retaliation for an unmanned aircraft was not just.


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