NATO air forces announced that around 90% of its air missions across Europe in 2020 were conducted in response to flights operated by Russian military aircraft.
The alliance has scrambled fighters more than 400 times across Europe in 2020 to intercept the unknown aircraft in its airspace, according to a NATO statement released on December 28, 2020. Around 350 missions out of 400 were related to flights made by Russian defense aircraft.
Alliance air forces outlined that if compared to 2019, Russian military activities in the NATO airspace have slightly increased in 2020. “This is a moderate increase from 2019. Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate with air traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to civilian airliners,“ read the statement.
While having two air operations centers in Germany, covering the Northern part of Europe, and one in Spain, which covers the Southern region, with its 40 air surveillance radars and reporting hubs, NATO monitors all air movements across Europe. A total of 60 Alliance fighter jets are on duty to respond to unannounced military flights as well as to civilian aircraft if the communication with air-traffic controllers is lost for any reason.
NATO also provides Air Policing coverage for members states in the Western Balkans that do not have their own fighter jets including Albania, Slovenia, and Montenegro. The Alliance also considers extending Air Policing coverage to North Macedonia.