For the first mission of their deployment, the Polish F-16 fighter jets deployed at Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania intercepted a Russian reconnaissance aircraft.
On December 7, 2021, the two fighters of the Polish Air Force were on a training alert (Tango Scramble) over the Baltic Sea. But during their routine mission, an unidentified aircraft was detected by NATO air defense radars. The status was thus changed to a real alert (Alpha Scramble) and the fighters were sent on an interception for visual identification. The aircraft was found to be a Russian Il-20 COOT A observation plane that was not communicating with air traffic control.
“This was the first Alpha Scramble for Polish detachment, called “Orlik 10′, and it was an excellent opportunity to confirm the uniformity of procedures, detachment’s operational readiness and its interoperability with other NATO components.” said Polish Detachment Commander Paweł Stajniak in a NATO press release. “The mission was successfully conducted in accordance with Baltic Air Policing rules of engagement and other pertaining regulations.”
The Baltic Air Policing mission started in 2004 when the Baltic States joined NATO. It is one of the main missions of NATO air forces, which rotate to protect Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian airspaces from incursions, as these countries have no airborne capability of their own. Since December 1, 2021, Poland is leading the mission, its 8th participation.