NATO fighters scramble as increase in Russian planes reported around Black Sea
NATO warplanes based at a Romanian air base intercepted Russian fighters approaching NATO territory at least four times in the space of 20 days, according to a report on Friday.
During the incidents, Russian fighters based in Crimea flew along the Black Sea towards NATO territory before turning back, Air Force Magazine reported.
“You have more Russian planes flying around the Black Sea,” Spanish Lieutenant General Fernando De La Cruz Caravaca, commander of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Center, told the magazine. “We react every time a Russian plane flies into the Black Sea,” he added. “We have to be sure that we are there, ready, in front of them, just in case.”
The news is the latest as Russian bombers and fighters continue to operate near or in NATO airspace following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.
“Nearly six weeks ago, the war in Ukraine began, and the war in Ukraine continues to rage, devastating lives and destroying cities,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday during a of the meeting of the North Atlantic Council of Foreign Ministers. “We continue to exert unprecedented pressure on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to end the war and reiterate our ironclad commitment to defending every inch of Allied territory. »
At the end of March, NATO reported that allied jet planes rushed 10 times in one day to follow Russian military planes over the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, intercepting six groups of aircraft near Allied airspace in less than six hours.
“The interception of several groups of Russian aircraft demonstrates the readiness and ability of NATO forces to protect Allied skies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” said the brigadier. Gen. Andrew Hansen, deputy chief of staff for operations at Allied Air Command, Ramstein, Germany, said following the March 29 incidents.
The interceptions come as NATO nations continue to focus on bolstering the alliance’s eastern flank, while providing military aid to the Ukrainian military. The United States has increased its troop strength in Europe to more than 100,000 troops from 80,000 in mid-February, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.
“There is nothing easy when it comes to Ukraine, not for Ukrainians, certainly, not for NATO, not for individual nations, like the United States trying to support Ukraine,” said Kirby. “Nothing is easy about this. And we are working incredibly hard on an unprecedented scale to help another nation fight back. »
Last week, the United States Marine Corps deployed a command and control unit of 200 Marines to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania in support of NATO’s defense posture. The Corps also repositioned 10 F/A-18C Hornets and two KC-130J Hercules aerial tankers, as well as 200 Marines from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 312 and Aerial Refueler Training Squadron (VMGR) 252 at Lask Air Force Base. Poland.
“These deployments will enhance our deterrent and defensive presence alongside our NATO allies,” a spokesman for U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said. FLYING in an email.
The deployments are the latest repositioning of US military forces in the Baltic region in support of NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Who the United States has in the region
Military officials announced that the following air units are among those currently present in the region to support NATO, either through pre-planned deployments or in response to the current situation in Ukraine:
- Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 28 based at Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, NC, has deployed 200 Marines to Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania
- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 312 based in Beaufort, SC, deployed 10 F/A 18C Hornets, 200 Marines
- Cherry Point-based Marine Aerial Refueler Training (VMGR) Squadron 252 repositioned two KC-130J Hercules
- Six EA-18G Growlers assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 134 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., specializing in electronic warfare missions, were deployed to Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany in late March.
United States Air Force
- The 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron based at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, deployed the B-52 Stratofortress to participate in close air support training near Poland on March 31, as well as operations in Czech republic. The unit also traveled to the North Sea off Norway to support an ongoing NATO exercise.
- The 92nd Air Refueling Wing based at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., deployed four KC-135 Stratotankers and 150 personnel to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany on March 9
- The 31st Fighter Wing based at Ramstein Air Base in Germany deployed two F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft to the 91st Air Base in Croatia on March 16
- In early March, B-52 aircraft attached to Minot AFB’s 5th Bomb Wing also conducted a series of integration flights over central Europe to meet with Romanian joint terminal attack controllers, and also practiced bilateral operations and bomber aircraft interception procedures with Italian and Greek military aircraft.
- In late February, six F-35 Lightning IIs from the 48th Fighter Wing based at Royal Air Force Lakenheath deployed to Estonia and Lithuania. Six F-35s assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, were also forward deployed to air bases in Lithuania and Romania.
- Since late February, eight F-15Es assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina and six KC-135 Stratotankers from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, based at the Royal Air Force Mildenhall, UK have also been deployed to Germany.
- In mid-February, the 52nd Fighter Wing from Spangdahlem AFB, Germany deployed personnel, support equipment and a number of F-16 Fighter Falcons to Romania. The 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath, UK, has also deployed F-15 Eagles to Poland.
“So far, no one has been replaced; everyone the secretary has ordered to stay,” Kirby told reporters earlier this month, adding that the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is still on a scheduled deployment to the Mediterranean, where it will remain until the Secretary of Defense decides it’s time for a rotation.