Two French Mirage 2000-5F multirole fighters deployed in Estonia intercepted three Russian military aircraft.
After NATO radar systems detected the unidentified flight group, the two interceptors were scrambled from Ämari Air Base in Estonia, where they are currently based.
The French pilots intercepted the aircraft, which were visually identified as a Russian Ilyushin Il-20M observation plane, and its escort composed of two lightly armed Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighters.
The Ilyushin Il-20M (NATO reporting name: Coot-A) is a large turboprop electronic reconnaissance aircraft based on the Il-18, a popular Soviet civilian airliner.
Once the visual identification was completed, the French fighters escorted the flight group away from the Baltic airspace.
#eAP | Le 3/05, 2 M2000-5F déployés en dans le cadre de la mission #NATO de police du ciel eAP ont décollé sur alerte pour accompagner 3 aéronefs évoluant aux abords de l’espace aérien balte. #SolidaritéStratégique pic.twitter.com/QI6oUmR6eJ
— Armée française – Opérations militaires (@EtatMajorFR) May 4, 2022
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 March 13, 2022, four Mirage 2000-5F fighters belonging to the French Air and Space Force have been deployed in Ämari.
In the buildup to the war in Ukraine, NATO increased its air presence in eastern Europe by deploying additional fighters, observation aircraft, and bombers.